What to Watch as Florida COVID-19 Hospitalizations Reach Record Levels

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Tuesday brought a record number of COVID-19 hospitalizations according to the Florida Hospital Association. 16,521 people are in Florida hospitals with the coronavirus, up 773 from the day before according to the organization. 

Doctors, nurses, and hospital administrators across Florida become increasingly concerned with the steady stream of unvaccinated patients brought in but the delta variant. About 8.2% of the state’s ICU beds are available per the association.

“I’m scared that we have a population that is ignoring the science,"said Dr. Abram Berens, general medicine doctor and president of the Broward Medical Association. 

According to the Safety Net Hospital Alliance of Florida there are four signs to watch in hospitals to gauge how they’re handling the influx of patients: postponed scheduled procedures, bringing in temporary staff, paying large amounts of overtime, and setting up field hospitals or drastically expanding ICU beds. 

President of the Safety Net Hospital Alliance of Florida, Justin Senior, says most hospitals have done the first three. At this point, he says, hospitals are not putting up tents outside to handle patients. Senior says staffing is the primary concern for hospital systems. 

“Hospitals can actually expand their capacity if they need to from a brick and mortar standpoint. What you can’t create out of thin air are nurses. What you can’t create out of thin air are doctors,” said Senior. 

Jackson Health, Broward Health, HCA Healthcare, and Memorial Healthcare confirmed last week they were bringing in staff from other regions to meet the need in South Florida. 

President of the Florida Hospital Association Mary Mayhew is keeping an eye on whether hospitals are still accepting transfer patients from other hospitals, what she says is a key metric to tell is hospitals are full and nearing bed limits. 

“One of the areas that’s going to be really important is monitoring the mass capacity in the system. We’ve had hospitals looking at a matter of days before they are no longer able to admit patients,” said Mayhew. 

NBC 6 reached out to Jackson Health System, Memorial Healthcare, Broward Health, and Baptist Health, HCA Healthcare, and Mount Sinai Medical Center to ask which hospitals were still accepting transfer patients. Only Jackson Health directly answered. 

“Currently, our high COVID volumes have made it more challenging to accept routine requests for the transfer of critical adult patients, but we continue accepting transfers at all our hospitals for particular situations,” wrote Tania Leets from Jackson Health System, saying they specialize in certain procedures which may cause transfers. 

The Jackson spokeswoman tells NBC 6 they are close to their ICU capacity but do have the ability to increase the size of the ICU if needed.

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