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Local hospital bed capacity amid rising COVID-19 cases

Posted at 3:02 PM, Apr 02, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-03 12:22:22-04

PIMA COUNTY, Ariz. — Hospitals in southern Arizona are working against the clock to meet demands and make sure enough beds are available for those fighting COVID-19.

In examining area hospitals, the Pima County Board of Supervisors met to discuss capacity levels and future needs.

“Out of the medical-surgical bed capacity of the entire county, which is about 1,401 beds, we have 387 available. Of the adult ICU capacity, which is 311 for the entire county, 128 of those ICU beds are available. By the way, 'available' is both in terms of equipment and staffing,” said board member Dr. Francisco Garcia.

In a statement, Banner Health said all of its hospitals converted non-clinical spaces, such as conference rooms, to free up beds for coronavirus patients.

The following is its official statement:
“Banner Health, Arizona's largest health system has increased its bed capacity at Banner hospitals by canceling elective surgeries, in addition, the hospital system is investigating converting nonclinical spaces such as conference rooms and using surgery centers to increase its bed capacity for coronavirus patients. In Tucson, there are recently vacated clinical and administrative spaces available in Towers 3 and 4 at the Banner – University Medical Center Tucson campus, as those clinical spaces were moved to the new nine-story, $446 million hospital tower (Tower 1) in April 2019.

We also are considering bed expansion by accessing a variety of Banner clinical sites throughout the city. In addition, the Phoenix-based nonprofit health system has a team that is exploring other creative ways to increase bed capacity beyond the walls of its hospitals and clinics, if needed, including putting up tents in parking lots and football fields and working with community leaders to house patients in hotels and local churches, Banner's chief clinical officer Dr. Marjorie Bessel said, "Banner is already learning about patient surges from COVID-19 at its Colorado hospitals.'”

A spokesperson for Tenet Health said, its hospital capacities are still manageable.

The following is its official statement:
“Our top priority is making sure our patients, our staff and our community remain safe. We can safely and appropriately care for our patients with the necessary supplies and equipment that we currently have. All hospitals have surge plans which will be reviewed in the context of the governor’s executive order. We are working through ways to examine capacity within our hospitals, and to increase our access to supplies and equipment. In addition, we are exploring availability of additional spaces that may be converted into patient treatment areas to handle a surge in patients.”

Santa Cruz Valley Regional Hospital in Green Valley echos the above sentiments, explaining to Green Valley News that the hospital is in a “good position right now.” It’s capacity can be increased “by 50-percent by April 24th,” doing so by doubling rooms and converting pre- and post-op areas.

"To date, I believe that we have the resources that we need. But most of the models seem to indicate that we will be peaking in the next two to three weeks,” said Garcia.

The hospitals go on to say they are exploring other creative ways to increase capacity in case of a huge patient surge. Those ways go beyond the physical walls of hospitals, such as pitching tents in football fields, churches parking lots and parks - something hospitals in New York have already done.

KGUN 9 also reached out to Tucson Medical Center, but have yet to hear its response on increasing bed capacity.