Hospitals preparing for 'dangerous shortage' of ICU beds amid rise in COVID-19 cases |

Hospitals preparing for 'dangerous shortage' of ICU beds amid rise in COVID-19 cases

Alex Jokich
Updated: November 11, 2020 06:24 PM
Created: November 11, 2020 06:08 PM

Intensive care units in the Twin Cities are nearing a "dangerous shortage" in beds, according to Governor Tim Walz.

The Minnesota Department of Health reported intensive care units in the metro are at 97% capacity.

"This is a time to be very concerned," said Helen Strike, president at Allina Health's Regina and River Falls hospitals. Strike is also the co-lead for the state's Critical Care Coordination Center, which helps find available beds in Minnesota's ICUs.

Strike said hospitals normally operate at 80-85% capacity and occasionally get close to 90% during flu season.

"Right now, the hospital capacity across Minnesota is at some of its highest levels ever," Strike said. "The situation is mounting. We do have capacity issues, we are taking longer to place patients and more patients are coming into our hospitals with COVID-19 than ever before. You can imagine that it’s exhausting that when you are having to call five or six or seven different hospitals before there's a bed available for the ICU patient and sometimes it's more than that."

Strike said there were about 15 ICU beds available in the metro Wednesday, compared with 36 available beds two weeks ago.

COVID-19 patients currently make up about a quarter of the state's ICU population, but that number is consistently climbing.

"I'm more worried than I was back in May about having the available staff and the beds to care for our patients because of the high community spread," Strike said. "That high community spread usually translates within a couple of weeks of those high numbers into hospitalizations."

Strike said many hospitals are activating surge plans, which may include delaying elective surgeries, bringing in temporary nurses and looking at open beds in greater Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota.

"You look at what's happened in Wisconsin, you look at what's happened in bed space elsewhere, we have to make sure we don't end up in a situation like El Paso or an overrun hospital situation like we saw earlier in the Northeast," Walz said Wednesday.

The governor said Minnesota’s test positivity rate is now more than 20%, double what it was last week.

Strike is urging Minnesotans to take state guidelines seriously to help prevent further spread of the virus.

"Now is the time we can make a change. If we can look at our behaviors, if we can stop doing some of the things we know we should stop doing, we can make a change in the next month and flatten this curve," Strike said.

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