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COVID-19 Patients Straining Florida's Hospital Systems

Two health care workers in masks attend to a patient in a hospital bed.
U.S. Navy
Hospitals in Florida have been stopping elective surgeries in order to redeploy staff to emergency rooms and ICUs to take care of patients.

NPR's Debbie Elliott talks to Orlando-based epidemiologist Dr. Vincent Hsu about the state's strained health care resources amid a new surge of coronavirus cases. He says it's the worse it's ever been.

(LISTEN: NPR's Debbie Elliott talks to Tampa-based epidemiologist Dr. Vincent Hsu about the state's strained health care resources amid a new surge of coronavirus cases. He says it's the worse it's ever been. )

With Florida hospitals seeing a record number of patients due to COVID-19, many are suspending elective surgeries, converting spaces to accommodate more intensive care beds and putting out calls for ventilators.

Dr. Vincent Hsu [Shoe], director of infection prevention for AdventHealth in Central Florida, told NPR this morning that Central Florida Hospitals are serving 1,500 COVID-19 patients, double the peak in January.

He says, two weeks ago, the hospital system ordered 100 additional ventilators and all are being used now.

"This has just put an enormous strain on our staff, on supplies and the rooms as well," Hsu said. "It is not sustainable."

A staffing shortage is the biggest issue for AdventHealth, Hsu said. Stopping elective surgeries helps the hospital system redeploy staff from operating rooms to intensive care units and emergency rooms to take care of patients, he said.

AdventHealth announced Thursday that it was stopping elective surgeries at three more hospitals in the greater Tampa Bay region: Dade City, Sebring and Zephyrhills.

Other hospitals are stopping elective surgeries as well.

Starting Saturday, BayCare will stop all elective surgeries in it's hospitals in Pinellas, Pasco and Polk counties. And on Monday, Lakeland Regional Health will follow suit.

Elective surgeries involve procedures that can be delayed without harm to patients.

On Thursday, there were 15,796 people with COVID-19 in Florida's hospitals, an increase of nearly 300 over Wednesday. And nearly 49% of Florida's staffed ICU beds were taken by 3,232 coronavirus patients.

“COVID-19 hospitalizations have increased 10-fold since the beginning of July, and today we have more than 1,000 COVID positive patients in our 14 acute care hospitals across the Tampa Bay area,” Glenn Waters, chief operating officer for BayCare said in a release. “We’re making these operational adjustments to be sure we can continue providing safe, high-quality care to the recent influx of COVID patients in addition to hundreds of other people in our hospitals with unrelated, serious medical issues.”

Hsu reported that the ICUs at AdventHealth hospitals in Central Florida are full so many patients who need intensive care are in rooms that are not designed for that kind of care.

Copyright 2021 NPR