Arizona hospitals urged to prepare for new wave of COVID-19 patients


Gage Skidmore (Flickr)

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey

Ivana Venema-Nunez, Reporter

On Saturday, the Arizona Department of Health Services director sent out a letter urging hospitals in Arizona to “fully activate” their facility emergency plans.

On the same day, Dr. Cara Christ told ABC15 that her department’s staff had made errors and reported incorrect hospitalization numbers since April on the Arizona Department of Health Services coronavirus dashboard, according to the ABC 15 article published on June 8.

The ADHS miscalculated the number of hospital beds currently available versus the ones in use, due to staff member’s confusion over the hospitals’ licensed bed capacity and surge capacity.

In the letter, hospitals are urged to prepare surge beds, cross-training staff, and possibly reducing or suspending elective surgeries to “ensure adequate bed capacity for both COVID and non-COVID admissions.” among other steps.

Coronavirus numbers hit single-day records last week.   AZDHS Data Dashboard showed the highest number of new COVID-19 cases in one day at 1,127 cases on June 2.  Experts like Will Humble, Executive Director of Arizona’s Public Health Association, told AZFamily that the increase of COVID-19 cases being reported could possibly be the result of a lack of social distancing since the expiration of the stay-at-home order. And now the protests in Phoenix could also be a potential source for new COVID-19 cases. 

Arizona hospitals are now at 76 percent capacity for inpatient beds, according to ADHS website as of this article being published.

“This was our expectation,”  and “Arizona is prepared.” Gov. Doug Ducey said on June 4, nearly three weeks after he lifted the stay-at-home order. Since then, both daily positive test numbers and hospitalized COVID-19 patients have increased, according to another ABC15 article published on June 4.

A coronavirus surge hotline was created to help hospitals transfer COVID-19 patients and since 585 patients have been transferred to hospitals with more room and away from “hard-hit” areas.

“This call line distributes the patients more evenly across the state to try to not overwhelm any one facility, and that has helped take some of the pressure particularly off our ICU census,” said John Mougin, chief quality officer at Northern Arizona Healthcare.

Dr. Christ, said no hospital has reached crisis care levels, which she describes as “using protocols to prioritize who gets a bed, who gets medicine, who gets a ventilator.”

“What you’re really starting to see now is a realistic assessment and check-up of, are we really ready for an upsurge of COVID-related cases?” said ASU Law Professor James Hodge, who is a contributor to Arizona’s Crisis Standards of Care plan.“We’re going to do the best we can with the resources, beds, and personnel that we have – against the backdrop of an infusion of new cases.”