South Florida healthcare officials concerned about ICU bed capacity amid COVID-19 surge

MIAMI (WSVN) - As cases of COVID-19 continue to climb at an alarming rate across the state, South Florida healthcare officials are expressing their concerns over intensive care unit bed capacity.

The Sunshine State closed out a record week in the pandemic with more than a quarter of a million cases now reported. Over 10,300 new cases were reported on Saturday, the third highest single-day increase on record.

Speaking at a news conference, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said he’s taking steps to help caregivers treat COVID-19 patients.

“Today, hospitals throughout Florida will be getting additional shipments of the therapeutic remdesivir,” he said.

The spread of the coronavirus is not showing any signs of slowing down, with 2,527 new reported infections in Miami-Dade County and 1,548 in Broward.

Across South Florida, hospitalizations are up, and those on the front line are adjusting to deal with the surge in cases.

“Our hospital capacity is at about 89%. Our ICU capacity is beyond 100%,” said Dr. Leah Carpenter, CEO of Memorial Hospital West in Pembroke Pines.

Memorial Hospital administrators told Broward County commissioners on Friday that hospitalizations are at their highest, with a massive increase in emergency room visits over the last three days.

Carpenter said the increase has forced them to make extra space.

“What we’ve done is we’ve converted an entire central tower into negative pressure so that we can accommodate more COVID patients,” she said.

At Broward Health, administrators said they’re preparing and hoping for the best.

“We are hoping it starts to come down, because the increase in possible hospitalizations is definitely a concern. We can keep this up, but not indefinitely,” said Gino Santorio, President and CEO of Broward Health, during a phone interview.

Miami-Dade’s numbers are even higher. The positivity rate on Saturday was 21.4%.

Hospitalizations, ICU patients and ventilator use are all on the rise. As of Saturday morning, 179 new COVID-19 patients were under hospital care in Miami-Dade, adding up to more than 1,800 patients in the county.

“Those patients now need COVID beds, but they can’t go to a COVID ICU. They have to go to specialty ICUs where we’re having to create COVID beds,” said Dr. Nicholas Namias, a critical care specialist at Jackson Memorial Hospital.

Healthcare officials said there are several dozens of COVID-19 patients being discharged from hospitals every day, but incoming patients outnumber that total.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he is sending state supplies to Florida, including the therapy drug remdesivir.

Anyone with questions and concerns about the coronavirus can call the Florida Department of Health’s 24-hour hotline at 1-866-779-6121.

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