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Valley hospital leaders show solidarity, sound alarm on COVID surge

Valley hospital leaders show solidarity, sound alarm on COVID surge
Posted at 4:13 PM, Jan 13, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-13 20:16:53-05

PHOENIX — In a show of solidarity, top doctors at five hospital systems joined together Wednesday, sounding the alarm on the current COVID-19 surge and warning preparations have been under way for "worst case scenarios."

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Top doctors from Dignity Health, Banner Health, HonorHealth, Valleywise Health and Mayo Clinic spoke for nearly an hour Wednesday, touting the partnership between systems and the use of the Arizona Surge Line to balance the number of patients at hospitals across the state.

"There will come a point at which healthcare needs in our community will surpass hospital resources if we continue to experience uncontrolled spread of COVID-19 here in Arizona," said Dr. Alyssa Chapital, the hospital medical director for Mayo Clinic in Arizona.

According to the state's coronavirus dashboard, there are 5,055 COVID-19 inpatients in Arizona hospitals, among the highest since the start of the pandemic. The doctors stressed staff, not necessarily beds, is the biggest issue.

Hospitals are also utilizing the Arizona Surge Line to transfer some patients to other hospitals in order to balance out the system.

"We also agreed that no hospital would activate the triage addendum of the Arizona Crisis Standards of Care Plan unless all hospitals had reached that critical shortage of life-saving resources," said Dr. Keith Frey, the chief medical officer for Dignity Health's Arizona Division.

The triage addendum, in simplest terms, would put doctors in a position to have to decide who does - and does not - get scarce resources. On Wednesday, the doctors reiterated multiple times the hope and goal is to avoid that scenario.

"The reality is we have been, as we've shared with you, preparing for worst-case scenarios if we don't follow the mitigation standards that we're reinforcing with you today," Dr. Frey said. "We do have in place, each of our facilities, processes and teams and ethicists that if we got to that point, we could make sure that we're providing what resources we do have in an equitable way."

The doctors also called for a statewide mask mandate, a curfew, stopping indoor dining, canceling large gatherings, and adhering to a bi-directional road map for the opening and closing of businesses.

"We believe that we need additional mitigation, enforcement and personal accountability," said Dr. Marjorie Bessel, chief clinical officer for Banner Health.

The doctors also encouraged people to shrink their circle, wear a mask and avoid unmasked gatherings.

"It is very likely that someone at those gatherings has the virus and they are spreading it to you," said Valleywise Health Chief Clinical Officer Dr. Michael White.

According to the state's coronavirus dashboard, ICU availability at Arizona hospitals is at 8%, or 145 beds.

"Regardless of what the various messages are from a myriad of government officials, whether it be at the federal, state, county, local level; personally, if you wanted to keep your friends and family safe, indoor dining at this time is not a good idea," said Dr. Stephanie Jackson, senior vice president and chief clinical value officer at HonorHealth. "We have extremely widespread levels of COVID-19."