State health director tells Arizona hospitals to ‘fully activate’ emergency plans

Banner Health said ICU bed occupancy was growing, and that if current trends continued would exceed capacity.

By Stephanie Innes | Arizona Republic 

As COVID-19 numbers in Arizona climbed last week, the state health director sent a letter to hospitals urging them to “fully activate” emergency plans.

Hospitals are also being asked to prepare for crisis care, and to suspend elective surgeries if they are experiencing a shortage of staff or bed capacity, Dr. Cara Christ, Arizona Department of Health Services director, says in the June 6 letter.

The letter was sent on the day after the chief clinical officer of Arizona’s largest health system — Banner Health — said ICU bed occupancy was growing, and that if current trends continued would exceed capacity.

One day later, Banner Health said it had reached capacity for its nine ECMO machines. ECMO stands for stands for extracorporeal membrane oxygenation — it works like an external lung and is for patients whose lungs get so damaged that they don’t work, even with the assistance of a ventilator.

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