The Arizona Department of Health Services director Dr. Cara Christ, sent out a letter over the weekend informing Arizona hospitals to “fully activate” their facility emergency plans.
The notice serves as instructions to hospitals to prepare surge beds, cross-train staff, and possibly reduce or suspend elective surgeries to “ensure adequate bed capacity for both COVID and non-COVID admissions.”
The Saturday letter orders hospitals to identify additional ICU and inpatient beds to meet the 50 percent additional bed increase.
Arizona hospitals now must determine whether or not to move their facilities from conventional care to contingency care, and also to prepare for crisis care.
“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 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.”
For state health leaders, this potentially means the use of the resurrected field-hospitals like St. Luke’s.
“So it’s able to be activated should we need it, as we see bed capacity dwindling in the state,” said Jessica Rigler, Assistant Director of ADHS.
The state is also directing hospitals to use the surge line. “We’ve seen people transferred from rural parts of the state – from eastern Arizona, northern Arizona, [transported] down to central and southern Arizona, so they could get a higher level of care,” said Rigler, who notes 500 patients have already been transferred to another hospital using the portal.
As the cases grow, Governor Doug Ducey continues to weigh the costs.
“What we’re after nationally, and in Arizona, is a sustainable strategy on how to balance the economic impacts and the public health risks,” said Hodge.
The recent COVID-19 ICU data is not what state leaders would like it to be. “As of today, we had about 23% of ICU beds reported available across the state,” said Jessica Rigler, ADHS. Currently more than 75% of Arizona’s ICU beds are in use right now.
The state’s concern is not just in the number of beds that are dwindling. On Friday, ADHS reported the highest number of COVID-19 hospitalizations, while medical centers across the state had 1,234 coronavirus inpatients and 718 emergency room visits.
Banner Health says they are seeing a steady climb in coronavirus cases in Arizona and they have reached capacity for patients receiving ECMO treatment. Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, also known as extracorporeal life support, is an technique of providing prolonged cardiac and respiratory support to persons whose heart and lungs are unable to provide an adequate exchange.
Read the full letter below: