By Rebekah Morris for AZBEX
The State of Arizona is continuing on with a push for expanded medical facilities, even as revised projections for COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations are trending down. The state is preparing for a worst-case scenario to ensure that any surge in demand for medical facilities can be met.
In a press conference on Tuesday, April 7, 2020, Dr. Cara Christ, Director of the Arizona Department of Health and Human Services explained that the projected demand for hospital beds is being revised daily, and while it appears the social distancing measures in place are working, the state is continuing to prepare for that worst-case scenario.
Hospitals Have Capacity
Talking with Mark Barkenbush, Senior Project Executive for Banner Health, at the BEX Healthcare Leading Market Series virtual event on Thursday, April 2, 2020, he described the Banner Health system as having “more beds available than we have in a long time.” This is mostly due to the Governor’s directive to stop all elective surgeries to prepare for COVID-19. In addition, many businesses are closed and residents are abiding by the stay-at-home order, reducing the overall occurrences for injuries.
The state currently has 16,900 hospital beds. Governor Ducey has previously requested an additional 13,000 beds be identified and planned for and another 1,500 ICU beds be added to the state’s capacity. As of the press conference on Tuesday, hospitals are using 64 percent of ICU bed capacity, mostly for non-COVID-19 patients.
St. Luke’s Hospital to Reopen
As reported last week, the recently shuttered St. Luke’s Hospital is planned to reopen. As of Tuesday, April 7, 2020, the Army Corps of Engineers along with the Arizona National Guard are working to finalize a lease agreement that would enable construction to begin on reopening that facility.
Additional Sites Identified
Dr. Christ went on to identify potential plans for opening up one field hospital in Southern Arizona and two potential field hospitals in Maricopa County. Christ also alluded to a “scope of work” request for up to a 1,250–bed facility in Flagstaff, and another 800-1,000–bed facility in Tucson. Those appear to be very preliminary inquiries, mostly centered around scalable facilities.
Models Show Promising Signs
Models for projecting COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations are varying and change daily. At the BEX virtual LMS, AJ Thomas, Healthcare Sector Leader for Corgan, identified a site he provides to his healthcare clients: http://covid19.healthdata.org/united-states-of-america/arizona. This model projects a peak demand for hospital services in the third week of April.
As recent as last week, the website projected a shortage of hospital beds in Arizona. This week, it has already been revised twice and now projects no shortage of hospital or ICU beds, only a need for several hundred ventilators.
Arizona continues to benefit as a state experiencing COVID-19 infections later than initial outbreaks such as Washington and New York. The state has time to learn from other states’ experiences and prepare for multiple scenarios.