LITTLE ROCK, Ark – ICU beds are few and far between in Arkansas and even with Baptist Health adding 18 Tuesday, COVID Comm said it’s still having problems finding beds to put COVID patients into.
COVID Comm employees work behind the scenes when a hospital doesn’t have enough space for a COVID patient. It’s their job to find an open bed to transfer the patient to so they can be cared for.
“It’s red light, green light. You have availability or you don’t,” Arkansas COVID Comm Program Manager Jeff Tabor said.
Tabor said the latest surge has made things more difficult for his employees.
COVID Comm isn’t necessarily getting more calls than it did this past winter, but with fewer ICU beds available, the problem now is finding openings, even for just one patient.
“COVID ICU admissions are higher, and those patients stay in the ICU much longer than a non-COVID patient, staffing levels are down, so it’s the perfect recipe for the perfect storm,” Tabor said.
Pre-COVID, the center assisted trauma patients. Tabor says the wait time from the ER to a bed was about 7 minutes. Now Tabor says for COVID patients the wait time could be hours or even days before a bed is available.
Even when they can find a bed, Tabor said in some cases it could take up to 11 hours to transfer the patient.
“We’ve coordinated cases from Bella Vista to El Dorado, from West Memphis to Fayetteville and then all in between,” Tabor said.
Tabor says extra ICU beds will help turn the red lights, green but the real solution will come when more get vaccinated and free up our hospitals.