Arizona’s largest healthcare provider has seen an influx of COVID-19 patients in recent weeks. Banner Health reports its facilities across the state are operating past 100 percent capacity. But health officials say the shortage of skilled, capable staff is even more troubling.
Dr. Marjorie Bessel, Chief Clinical Officer for Banner, says staff are attempting to accommodate the flood of COVID-19 patients by stretching hospital capacity. Rooms typically used for one patient now hold two. Intensive care unit beds are being placed in previously unused parts of hospitals.
Record-high hospitalizations statewide have made adequate staffing a challenge, Bessel said at a press conference last Wednesday.
“We can create beds, we believe,” she said. “It’s the skilled staff, the expert nurse, that wonderful doctor, that incredibly diligent respiratory therapist, those are individuals that are stretched really thin right now.”
Healthcare workers across the nation have faced additional strain with rising case numbers. Within Banner, Bessel says staff members are often transferred to different facilities to streamline treatment, and that some workers are being trained to transition into the ICU. At times, multiple healthcare workers are required to turn patients in their beds to allow them to breathe.
Bessel pleaded with the public to practice mitigation strategies. She says the actions of Arizonans will determine whether or not the facility is forced to ration care.
“Please do not make us decide who will get life-saving resources and who will not,” Bessel said. “The choices you make in the days and weeks to come are truly life or death. Maybe not your own, but perhaps one of your loved ones, a friend, or a neighbor.”
The warning came days before Arizona recorded a record-high number of deaths related to COVID-19.