PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) - For the first time this entire pandemic, Arizona hospitals have less than 80 total ICU beds available. At Valleywise Health, a spokesperson confirmed there are currently three available. But some medical professionals are worried that things will only get worse the deeper we head into winter. "If we can feel the heat already, then we're already at a level where people should be mindful and doing what they can," Valleywise district medical group vice-chair of surgery Dr. Ross Goldberg said.
With only three ICU beds available, Goldberg and the rest of his staff are preparing for a scenario where that number gets even lower. But he's holding out hope that never happens. "We are constantly watching our situation," Goldberg said. "We are allocating resources as needed to make sure we're getting people taken care of. But again, we don't want to find what those breaking points are. We don't really want to stress the system to that level."
Across Arizona hospitals, ICU bed availability is either at zero or approaching that number. At Flagstaff Medical Center, the only Level I trauma center north of Maricopa County, they are currently at ICU capacity with a waiting list. But if someone shows up needing an ICU bed, a hospital spokesperson confirmed to Arizona's Family that they will be provided with one.
Combine the bed shortage with the ongoing staffing shortage and the holidays already being one of the busiest times of the year without factoring in a pandemic, and Goldberg says hospitals have to make difficult decisions on a daily basis. "Kind of prioritizing what needs to be done," he said. "We're constantly doing that anyway, but it's now at a much higher level when you are talking about what bed availability we have, what staffing availability we have, what resource availability. And we haven't even talked about the supply chain as well."
Goldberg says the one variable that hospitals can control is the influx of COVID-19 patients. But these hospitals need the public's assistance. "We're asking for help," Goldberg said. "This is a direct plea to the public for their help. We can stop the spread, reduce the numbers we're seeing. Our numbers from today, over 95% of them are in-patient COVID patients that are unvaccinated."