Arizona nearing ICU capacity, reports that some hospitals have none left

By: - November 23, 2020 3:38 pm

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As Arizona continues to post higher counts of COVID-19 patients, intensive care unit beds are becoming increasingly hard to come by, especially in rural areas of the state. 

As of Nov. 22, data provided by the Arizona Department of Health Services showed that only 10% of the state’s intensive care unit beds were readily available. That is approximately 175 beds for COVID and non-COVID patients alike. 

The lowest this number has gotten to before was 9% on July 7, when over 50% of ICU beds were being used by COVID patients. Currently, 27% are in use by COVID patients, a 17% increase from last week and a 50% increase from 2 weeks ago. 

Some doctors in rural parts of the state have reported that no ICU beds are available at all. 

Dr. Cleavon Gilman is an emergency room physician who said on Twitter that the rural Arizona hospital he is working at was not able to transfer patients to other hospitals, as they were not accepting ICU patients. 

“Rather than wait for rooms to be available, my colleague and I circumvented this today by seeing patients in the waiting room,” Gilman said on Twitter about how the situation has led to longer wait times in the ER and more ER beds in use. 

ADHS data shows that ER bed usage is on the rise, with nearly half of all ER beds being currently in use. When COVID cases dropped in September, ER bed usage hovered around the 40% range, only rising when COVID numbers began to rise again in November. 

Gilman didn’t say on Twitter which hospital he is working at. A request for comment from Gilman was not returned. ADHS also did not respond to requests for comment.

Tucson television station KVOA reported that St. Mary’s Hospital had no ICU beds and Tucson Medical Center had one ICU bed remaining. 

In light of the recent surge, some hospitals have begun putting new restrictions in place, such as limiting visitations or shutting down visitations entirely. 

Over the last week, Arizona has averaged 47.4 new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people. 

Statewide, Arizona reported a total of 2,659 new cases of COVID-19 Monday with more than half of them coming out of Maricopa County. There have been over 302,000 cases of COVID-19 in Arizona and over 6,400 deaths as of Nov. 23.

Over the past week, there have been 24,229 new cases of COVID-19 reported, only 139 cases shy of the seven-day Arizona record set the week of July 5-11, according to data by researchers at John Hopkins University.

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Jerod MacDonald-Evoy
Jerod MacDonald-Evoy

Reporter Jerod MacDonald-Evoy joins the Arizona Mirror from the Arizona Republic, where he spent 4 years covering everything from dark money in politics to Catholic priest sexual abuse scandals. Jerod has also won awards for his documentary films which have covered issues such as religious tolerance and surveillance technology used by police. He brings strong watchdog sensibilities and creative storytelling skills to the Arizona Mirror.