SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – The situation inside Utah hospitals is growing more urgent with the surge in Delta variant cases of COVID-19. On Friday, Intermountain Healthcare officials said their intensive care units are at 100 percent capacity, a figure they call “alarming.”
Like all hospitals, Intermountain Healthcare has to keep some intensive care beds available at all times for emergency patients like victims of heart attacks, strokes, or auto accidents, so more than 80 percent of filled ICU beds means they are over capacity.
Dr. Brandon Webb is an Infectious Diseases Physician at Intermountain Medical Center and Intermountain LDS Hospital.
“When we get above 80 percent, we are above full, beyond full,” says Webb. “What we’re experiencing right now is our capacities are in excess of 80 percent, our volumes are actually beyond 100 percent across the Intermountain system. What that means is that in many cases, we are lacking those emergency beds and so we are unable to provide that immediate care in the same way we normally need to. That’s the reality.”
Of course, a hospital bed is useless without the medical professionals to care for the person in it. Dr. Webb says that’s another reason for the current crisis as health officials see COVID-19 cases spike in areas such as West Valley City, Herriman, Draper, Orem, and Provo.
“We might have physical space but we don’t have personnel like we did last winter,” says Webb. “We are severely understaffed. Our nursing in particular, but also other healthcare workers including respiratory therapists and others have been really severely impacted by the toll that caring for COVID-19 and other patients has taken over the last 18 months and we’ve lost a lot who have actually retired from healthcare and we’re having a really hard time refilling those positions.”
Dr. Webb says some surgeries may have to be postponed if the recovery process means time in an ICU.
According to the Utah Department of Health (UDOH), 460 out of the state’s total 531 ICU beds are currently occupied.