Utah ICUs are over capacity in ‘preventable’ COVID-19 crisis

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MURRAY, Utah (ABC4) – It’s a growing crisis inside Utah hospitals, where doctors, nurses, and administrators are struggling to find beds to care for patients amid the latest surge of COVID-19 cases. 

On Friday, an infectious disease physician from Intermountain Healthcare said their intensive care units are over capacity.

“We’re in a pretty bad strait right now,” is how Dr. Eddie Stenehjem described the situation in ICUs.

“As of yesterday, our trauma COVID hospitals were at 102% capacity in ICU. Our floors, our acute medical surgical floors, are not far behind at about 98% capacity, so we’re full. Completely full,” Dr. Stenehjem said. “So that means when you get a trauma patient, when you get a MI patient, a heart attack patient, a stroke patient that needs an ICU bed, you’ve got to figure something out.”

Dr. Stenehjem says caregivers are working extra hours and extra days to take care of the constantly arriving COVID-19 patients, 90% of whom he says are unvaccinated.

“Now seeing patients come into the hospital that are suffering when they didn’t need to be,” he told reporters. “The majority of patients that are coming into the hospital with active COVID-19 are not vaccinated and they could have been vaccinated. If they were vaccinated, the vast majority of these hospitalizations would have been avoided, so seeing that so acutely of a preventable episode of suffering is just so wearing on our caregivers.”

Now, administrators have to make difficult choices about the level of care some patients receive and possibly delaying elective surgeries. Dr. Stenehjem says he and his medical colleagues are exhausted, physically and mentally.

“I haven’t seen morale this low in a hospital in…well, I don’t think I’ve ever seen it this low. Our caregivers are really strained,” Dr. Stenehjem said. “We’re staring down the barrel of a potentially really bad fall and winter without a whole lot of relief unless something changes.”

On Friday afternoon, a spokesperson from University of Utah hospital confirmed to ABC4 News that their intensive care unit is also at 100% capacity. 

According to the Utah Department of Health,  85.5% of all ICU beds in the state, 344 of the 422, are currently occupied.

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