Suncoast hospitals near ICU bed capacity as COVID-19 cases soar, but staffing is the bigger issue

Suncoast hospitals near ICU bed capacity as COVID-19 cases soar, but staffing is the bigger issue
Hospitals on the Suncoast say thankfully, they have the infrastructure and plans in place to expand these ICUs, but staffing is the bigger issue. (Source: wwsb)

SARASOTA, Fla. (WWSB) - As cases of the coronavirus continue to rise, so does the pressure on hospitals to meet the need. Doctors say it’s especially hard when they’re almost at capacity.

As of Thursday, Sarasota County has a record number of 155 patients with COVID-19 at area hospitals. Out of those county hospital cases, 116 are at Sarasota Memorial Health - 24 of which are in the Intensive Care Unit. In Manatee County, 135 people are hospitalized with coronavirus. The majority of these patients are at Manatee Memorial Hospital. There are 70 COVID-19 patients admitted, with 24 of those are in the ICU.

“We’ve had some moments where we’ve really had to pause last week. Our census on COVID patients kept climbing, we were about 75 in house and all of our ICU beds were full, and our vents were getting short on inventory. We really had to sit back and figure out what we were going to do last week,” Kevin DiLallo, CEO & President of Manatee Memorial Hospital, tells us.

Hospitals on the Suncoast say thankfully, they have the infrastructure and plans in place to expand these ICUs, but this trend is still troubling for other reasons.

“Obviously, if we keep it at this level, we are humans, so at some point we are going to reach our level of fatigue. There are external pressures of these patients coming in. We are here to take them, but in the long term, can we sustain this for months? That’s my concern. Staffing becomes an issue,” Dr. Manuel Gordillo, Medical Director of Infection Prevention at Sarasota Memorial Hospital, explained.

It’s not that there’s not enough staff per bed, but instead, it’s the fact that a COVID-19 patient often requires a team of multiple critical care physicians, nurses and other help.

“This pandemic is almost like a call to arms for them, this is exactly what they’re there to do. I would say the moral is high, but what everyone is worried about is being able to give these staff members time to recharge their batteries, and time away from the hospital, to get ready to go back in and do it all over again,” Dr. Joseph Seaman, a Critical Care Pulmonologist at Sarasota Memorial Hospital, said.

Hospitals have stopped elective surgeries once again to be able to reallocate beds and staffing when needed. They are also working with the state to receive some traveling nurses from other parts of Florida to help with the demand.

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