Hospitals adapt to keep beds available as surge in COVID-19 cases tests system

Health care workers at Fort Belvoir, Va., shifted operations to handle more COVID-19 cases in this photo from late March. A recent surge in cases of the coronavirus in Arizona is starting to pressure the bed capacity of some hospitals in the state, but experts say the facilities have managed to adapt so far. /Photo by Reese Brown/U.S. Army, Fort Belvoir

By Ellie Borst, Lisa Diethelm and Farah Eltohamy | Cronkite News

Surging numbers of COVID-19 cases in Arizona have pushed some hospital intensive-care units to their limits in recent weeks, but health experts around the state said hospitals still have room to adapt – for now.

The Arizona Department of Health Services has recorded 8,360 new cases of the coronavirus so far this month, almost 30% of the total 28,296 cases since the disease was first reported in the state in January.

Those new patients are putting a strain on hospital beds, with 76% of ICU beds occupied as of Monday. Hospital administrators said they are coping, but one nurse said seeing the constant stream of COVID-19 patients is “soul-crushing.”

“I didn’t use to dread going to work but when I know I am going to be in the COVID unit, I dread it. I have the best job in the world but it’s just – soul crushing is just the best way to describe it,” said Austin Kopas, an ICU nurse in Phoenix.

Experts say the pinch is being felt around the state, from hospitals in Phoenix to those in rural areas. At Yuma Regional Medical Center, officials said close to half of the ICU beds in use Tuesday were occupied by COVID-19 patients.

“So right now we’re able to manage everything we’ve got coming in,” said Dr. Robert Trenschel, the Yuma hospital’s CEO. “The issue comes in when we get quite a few of COVID patients coming in at the same time. Sometimes it’s a family of five or six that comes in.”


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