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AZ May See More Hospital Beds Due to COVID-19

Acuity Sun City. Image provided courtesy of Colliers International

By Rebekah Morris for AZBEX 

On Wednesday, March 25thMajor General Michael T. McGuire, the Adjunct General of the Arizona National Guard, indicated in a press conference that the state could be short 13K hospital beds due to the projected spike in demand for healthcare in the COVID-19 epidemic. That is beyond the existing statewide capacity of 15K hospital beds. 

Across the nation, temporary healthcare facilities are popping up, from a facility on a soccer field in Oregon to fairground facilities in both Miami-Dade County and Riverside County in California. While outbreaks are reaching high levels in both Florida and California, Arizona infection rates are comparatively low but growing fast. The state and healthcare system operators are preparing now for what could be an influx of patients due to COVID-19. 

The surge of hospital demand is expected to hit in early May according to state health officials at the same press conference. 

Federal Response Team on the Ground 

The National Guard is working closely with the National Incident Management System. The National Guard initiated the request for federal assistance last Friday, March 20th, and the team landed on the ground in Arizona on Sunday, March 22nd. They are preparing a proposal to send to Governor Doug Ducey although it was not clear when that would be submitted or what would be included. 

Potential Sites for Quick Expansion 

According to a story recently published in the Daily Independent, officials have already toured the recently closed St. Luke’s Hospital in Phoenix, which closed in late 2019, and are seriously considering what it would take to reopen that facility. It is owned by Steward Health Care. 

Julie Johnson, Healthcare Executive Vice President with Colliers International and Mike Brinkley, Healthcare Advisor with Land Advisors, both indicated that they have had informal discussions or brainstorming sessions with local healthcare systems about potential sites, but neither have worked directly with the government groups noted above.  

Healthcare Systems Plan for Major Medical Events but not Epidemic 

Most hospitals are constructed with shell space that can be built out to accommodate future needs. In my own personal experience on a very large new hospital construction project in Oregon, the Project Executive once told me ‘We won’t even be demobilized before they start renovating’ and he was correct. Flexibility and responsiveness are required traits of healthcare facilities in general.  

Brinkley stated that in his 30+ years of experience, planning for major medical events is ongoing in healthcare; however, he described more common scenarios such as an airplane crash or multiple vehicle pile-up on an interstate. He went on to state that the word ‘pandemic’ was not used in those discussions and this epidemic is posing a significant demand on the healthcare providers and their facilities. 

Click here and here for additional coverage on this topic. 

View the recorded press conference here: (About minute 18 is the start of the National Guard portion). 

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