Coronavirus Coverage from KARK

ICU beds availability lowers as COVID-19 cases continue to surge


LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Health officials are saying the ICU capacity across the state is at a dire level. This is forcing some hospitals to use other areas just to treat critical patients.

Due to the rise in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, rooms are full at an ICU unit at the University of Arkansas for Medical Services.

According to Elizabeth Sullivan, the Clinical Services Manager for one of the ICU units, healthcare workers have to create space for patients.

“We’ve actually taken up to twelve beds on a neighboring unit just to care for our additional patients,” Sullivan said.  

She said right now almost 30 of the rooms are patients with COVID-19.

“Which is more than we had with the first surge,” Sullivan said.

Sullivan explained that the increase in hospitalizations are running down their resources and running down their employees.

“They’re tired. People are leaving the bedside. They don’t want to do this anymore,” Sullivan said.

Dealing with the effects of the rising COVID cases is not only an issue at UAMS, it’s happening at hospitals across the state.

“The situation is pretty dire,” Arkansas Department of Health Medical director of preparedness Jerrilyn Jones said.

She said they are working with state hospitals as well as a federal assistance team to see what they need and request it from other states.

“That will provide us with some pointed recommendations in terms of what we can do with the capacity that we have currently,” Jones said.

She is also worried with the start of school on the horizon.

“I think things will get worse before they get better,” Jones said.

For Sullivan, it’s hard to wrap her head around.

“We’ve got a vaccine. We’ve got masking. We’ve got all this information and it’s devastating that people don’t believe in it and don’t trust the science,” Sullivan said.

She said if things don’t get better at some point, they will have to turn patients away.

“There will become a time when, kind of like in the middle of battle, we have to triage patients and decide who can we take care of,” Sullivan said. “We are looking at that as a very real possibility. That in and of itself is unimaginable.”

Sullivan said none of the COVID-19 patients in the ICU at UAMS have been vaccinated. She urges everyone to get the vaccine and slow the spread.

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