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More than a dozen Valley hospitals in a 'caution' category as space becoming limited

Posted at 3:03 PM, Dec 05, 2020

ABC15 is learning that more than a dozen hospitals in the Valley area are being put in a caution category as space is becoming limited as COVID-19 hospitalizations continue to rise.

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Sources with one of the largest hospital networks in the Valley gave ABC15 internal documents that show how 20 hospitals are in caution in this region.

This means some hospitals have no Intensive Care Unit (ICU) beds, some emergency departments are full, and others show their entire facilities are at saturation.

Emergency room doctor Frank LoVecchio did not give ABC15 the information, but provided context about the system that hospitals use, "caution just means that hey you might prepare your patient, you might say 'look, there’s no beds, I'm taking you there,' it’s kind of a team effort to make patients more aware, it’s a team effort so the hospitals can kind of split the patient load."

Patient counts inside of hospitals can change daily as patients can come in, or be discharged, but during the winter months it's not uncommon for some portions of a hospital to close in the Valley because they get full.

"Are we going to hit capacity this winter? Absolutely, are we going to overflow? Yes, are there going to be times when hospitals can't take any more patients and they have to take them, absolutely," said LoVecchio.

Just before Thanksgiving, researchers with the Arizona modeling team warned that we could be hitting hospital capacity in one to two weeks.

The models from ASU show intensive care units (ICUs) and med-surge capacity will be met in one to two weeks compared to December 13 and 22.

“Based on the current trajectory with stable non-COVID hospital utilization and no change to current public health policies, Arizona is likely to exceed currently available ICU and med-surg bed capacity in early December,” the report states.

The researchers write that urgent public health measures are needed to change the trajectory, they suggest: a statewide masking mandate with effective enforcement, limiting gatherings of non-household members especially those with recent out-of-state travel, closing high-risk gathering places including bars, and limiting restaurant dining to outdoor dining and 25% capacity.

On Friday, the Arizona Department of Health Services said there are 155 ICU beds in the state -- although they don't publicly post where those beds are. The hospital ICU census shows there are 666 COVID-19 patients in the ICU and there are 918 non-COVID-19 patients in the ICU.