Arizona pandemic czar says all options are on the table as COVID wave floods hospitals


PHOENIX – The Arizona pandemic tsar said on Friday that the growing wave of COVID-19 has become a “crisis” for state hospitals and could trigger a halt to elective surgeries if the situation worsens.

“It’s really a crisis now, and every day we have discussions like, ‘How can we increase, when and if it happens, what do we need to reduce? “Dr Richard Carmona, the former US surgeon general as the senior emergency public health adviser to Governor Doug Ducey and the Arizona Department of Health Services, said Arizona’s KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Morning News.

With COVID-related hospitalizations rising steadily since late October, the number of unused inpatient and intensive care beds statewide has fallen to its lowest ever pandemic level this week.

With over a third of the state’s population still not vaccinatedCarmona said “all options” are on the table to relieve the pressure on hospitals.

He said nearly 80% of people hospitalized with COVID have not been vaccinated. According to ADHS data For October released earlier this week, Arizonans who were not fully vaccinated were nearly four times more likely than those who must test positive and had a 15 times higher risk of dying from the virus.

“We may have to start thinking about not doing elective surgery,” Carmona said. “We may need to stop thinking about doing anything optional and only dealing with emergencies.”

Carmona said staff and equipment shortages are actually more of a concern than bed capacity.

“We have a lot of beds, but we don’t have enough staff and sometimes not enough equipment, like an ECMO for example,” he said, referring to the extracorporeal membrane oxygenation machines, which can keep some patients with heart and lung failure alive.

“The ECMO machine itself is important, but then you need people who can operate it. “

Healthcare workers are exhausted after fighting “this invisible threat” for nearly two years, Carmona said.

“Our nurses, our health professionals, our respiratory therapists, who all have families to protect as well, are exhausted,” he said. “So it’s very, very difficult to maintain staffing rates to provide the care. “

Similar difficulties exist in other states, limiting Arizona’s contingency plan options.

“The states around us where we could normally move patients back and forth, some of them have already gone into crisis mode, which means they won’t take anyone from the outside,” Carmona said. . “And here in our condition, we couldn’t help them by taking patients.”

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