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More available ICU beds isn't entirely good news, Pima County Supervisor says

Posted at 10:32 PM, Feb 08, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-09 00:32:44-05

TUCSON, Ariz. — In addition to serving on the Pima County Board of Supervisors, Dr. Matt Heinz works on the frontlines of the pandemic as a hospital doctor.

"I get my bearings as to: do we have beds? Do we have every type of bed? Are there particular categories of beds we do or don't have," he said.

Beds are important for his job because they are way of knowing who he can treat, where he can treat them and how much space he has to treat incoming patients.

You get an idea why he worries when data shows intensive care beds filling up across the state, mostly with COVID-19 patients.

"It's a risk to the community because if you fill up all your ICU beds with patients suffering from COVID then when you have those traumatic injuries or heart attacks or strokes of other conditions that require critical care management, at some point those patients may not be able to get care or they may not be able to get it in a timely fashion."

There's been a trend, according to the state's health department: more ICU becoming available.

Mostly through January, the percentage of available ICU beds lingered around 8% to 9%.

In February that number has inched up to about 12% to 13%.

The difference would seem to be good news, but Dr. Heinz has a grimmer possibility why there's more intensive care beds available.

"We're seeing more ICU beds become available because those patients with COVID that were occupying them are no longer with us."

While they've tapered off recently, he said data he's received shows higher deaths per day in February, so far, then the last two months.

Most deaths on account of the virus have been vulnerable, older people.

"That's not a reason that we shouldn't be social distancing and trying to prevent people from getting this infection."

Dr. Heinz called it a somber reminder to wear a mask and follow health guidelines.