Arizona Health Department: State Needs To Nearly Double Hospital Bed Capacity

Published: Wednesday, March 25, 2020 - 4:02pm
Updated: Wednesday, March 25, 2020 - 6:38pm

Arizona needs to nearly double its capacity of hospital beds by the end of May to handle a projected rush due to the coronavirus.

Dr. Cara Christ, director of the state Department of Health Services, said Wednesday that state officials are working with hospitals and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to identify facilities that could be used to help free up space in hospitals or add more beds where needed. 

“We anticipate that we could need an additional 13,000 hospital beds and an additional 1,500 ICU beds,” Christ told reporters at a press conference with Gov. Doug Ducey. “That's on top of the current 16,000 beds and 1,500 ICU beds.”

Based on the growing number of coronavirus cases in Arizona — as of Wednesday morning, 401 Arizonans have tested positive for the virus out of roughly 6,600 tested — Christ said those beds could be needed as soon as May.

“We believe that the peak of our illnesses will start mid to end of April, with peak hospitalizations in May. That’s what we’re doing. I don’t have a ... this is all based on computers and very smart people, but that’s what we are trying to get ahead of,” Christ said.

Christ later tweeted that those projections represent a worst-case scenario for Arizona.

“While we plan for the worst, there is already a lot that we have put into place to mitigate the spread,” she wrote.

Christ also said that those projections are helping to guide the state’s decision to shutter businesses, and perhaps order Arizona residents to stay in their homes.

“We don’t want to potentially shut down too early, because you could then have to do it again and again,” she said.

The Associated Press reported that the Army Corps inspected the shuttered St. Luke’s Medical Center as a potential site for adding to Arizona’s hospital bed capacity.

Officials have also floated large venues, such as Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum, as a place to house patients who no longer need to stay at a hospital but aren’t ready to go home.

Christ said the state has also requested that the federal government set up three field hospitals, two in Phoenix and one in Tucson.

Hospitals have also been asked to activate emergency plans, cross-train staff and find volunteers if necessary. 

In addition to beds, hospitals also need more ventilators. Christ said there are about 1,000 ventilators statewide, but the state needs at least  4,500.

Arizona requested 5,000 new ventilators from the federal government, Christ said.

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