KEY POINTS

  • Multiple counties in Florida face a new challenge as coronavirus cases rise
  • Their ICUs are running out of beds
  • Hospitals in Hillsborough, Orange, Broward, and Miami-Dade County are the most affected

Patients in major counties across Florida may need to reevaluate their options as hospitals say they have run out of beds in their ICU department.

The state’s Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) reports over 40 Florida hospitals located in multiple counties have run out of intensive care beds or are nearing full capacity as the virus outbreak across the state intensifies. The agency is in charge of granting licenses to health-care facilities within the state. According to AHCA, as of Tuesday, July 7, more than 5,000 patients in Florida are using approximately 83% of the Sunshine State’s 6,000 ICU beds.

This leaves only around 1,000 ICU beds for incoming patients, compared to almost 1,400 available beds a couple of weeks ago, according to WTSP, a CBS-affiliated TV station. Some of the most heavily-affected hospitals are those located in Hillsborough County, Orange County, Broward County, and Miami-Dade County.

Records show that these counties, which are home to cities like Tampa, Orlando, and Fort Lauderdale, are among the most populous in the state. According to AHCA, hospitals in these areas are now operating at 78% capacity.

hospitals in large counties in Florida are running out of ICU beds hospitals in large counties in Florida are running out of ICU beds Photo: Silas Camargo Silão - Pixabay

The Sunshine State, which has over 213,700 confirmed coronavirus cases so far, is trying to cope with the third-worst COVID-19 outbreak in the U.S. after New York and California. Data obtained by CNBC shows Florida has 8,587 new coronavirus cases on the average based on a seven-day monitoring.

In South Florida, health officials said the ICU situation is not completely dire. However, healthcare facilities there may have to free up beds in preparation for the bigger strain of dealing with a greater number of new cases reported during the past two weeks.

Memorial Healthcare System, for instance, converted its auditorium and many other interior areas into patient care spaces. Stanley Marks, the chief medical officer of Memorial, said they are actively expanding their capacity in an effective but safe manner to better respond to the health crisis. “We have instituted tents outside the emergency departments of our hospitals to triage patients who have symptoms,” he said.

For Dr. Mary Jo Trepka, chairwoman of the Epidemiology Department at the Florida International University, bed capacity and staffing issues are “very concerning,” particularly so because of the surging cases of coronavirus infection in Florida.

If the numbers continue to increase in the next few weeks, she said, there will be more patients in need of hospitalizations. “They do seem to have additional capacity in terms of backup. For example, they can take ventilators from operating rooms and repurpose them,” she told a local news outlet.