TUCSON, Ariz. -- The rising number of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations is now forcing medical professionals at Banner Health to make tough decisions, starting with holding off on elective surgeries come January 1st.
Dr. Marjorie Bessel, the Chief Medical Officer at Banner Health says the United States has surpassed 19-million total COVID-19 cases this week.
Arizona accounts for 500,000 of those.
“COVID-19 hospitalizations continue to increase at an exponential rate right here in Arizona,” she said during a press conference.
Dr. Bessel adds that nearly one-third of the hospitalizations have occurred in December alone.
“ICU bed capacity by COVID-19 patients increased by 600% since November 1st. Some of our hospitals have increased their ICU capacity by nearly 250% to meet this demand. Our ICU occupancy is now at 170% of our peak usual winter volume,” said Banner’s Chief Medical Officer.
To make matters worse...
“A patient who has COVID has an ICU stay three to four times than that of a non-COVID patient,” said Dr. Bessel.
This situation has forced Banner to outsource for help.
“This includes bringing staff from our other markets, expanding our external contracted labor, up-skilling clinical staff, and deploying of corporate employees,” she added.
Some Phoenix hospitals are already diverting patients coming in by ambulance.
Most Banner hospitals are also preparing to make tough decisions, like who gets the last ICU bed based on the severity of their condition.
Dr. Bessel says nurses who’ve tested positive for COVID-19, but are asymptomatic, could be called in to help. Tough this has not happened yet.
Right now, their focus is making the vaccine available to all health care workers who want it.
“We believe that vaccination is the way through and out of this pandemic,” Dr. Bessel said during the press conference.
Here’s her plea to Arizonans.
“Do your part. Shrink your circle. Make different plans for New Years. Do not host, and wear your mask fully above your nose and your mouth,” said Dr. Bessel.