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Arizona hospitals under pressure as Ducey renews vaccine mandate ban

Arizona hospitals are under strain, and some are making requests for additional staffing.

Arizona hospitals are under strain, and some are making requests for additional staffing.

The request comes after the Arizona Department of Health Services reported that availability for hospital beds is only at 5%. Only 85 ICU beds were available as of Thursday.

Governor Doug Ducey said the state would help hospitals care for patients and did not say any changes in COVID policy would be made to address the surge.

Staffing challenges

Seven hospitals in Arizona have requested a total of 133 staff from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to help amidst the current surge of COVID-19 cases.

The requests were submitted by the Arizona Department of Health Services to FEMA.

Kingman Regional Medical Center is one hospital requesting staffing assistance.

“For the first time since the pandemic began, KRMC is worried that we may have to close beds in the near future if this surge continues as expected,” the request said.

The request also detailed how the hospital has had to redeploy staff to help care for their patients and noted how transfers to other hospitals are taking longer now.

“We have critical patients holding in our emergency department,” the request said.

Yuma Regional Medical Center is also seeing 20 ICU nurses top care for COVID patients, because of the surge.

A spokesperson for FEMA told 12 News that the requests have not yet been filled by the agency but should be filled by the end of the month.

Governor Doug Ducey said Thursday that additional funding has been allocated to help address staffing at hospitals.

Health System Alliance of Arizona CEO Brittney Kaufmann said in a statement that the millions allocated by Ducey will help hospitals “discharge patients to other facilities creating more capacity in our hospitals and emergency rooms to treat patients.”

“These things come in waves, it seems like this wave is upon us and the state’s going to be a partner with the system,” Ducey said.

Maricopa County Public Health Director Marcy Flanagan also said in a press conference Thursday that the department is helping staff as they can through the county’s Medical Reserve Corps.

Strained system

Banner Health, the state’s largest healthcare system, said earlier this week that they may have to start cutting back on care starting in mid-January if the surge of COVID cases continues as anticipated.

Banner, Valleywise Health and other hospitals have said a vast majority of those they’re caring for with COVID-19 have not received the vaccine.

It was one year ago this week that the COVID-19 vaccine arrived in Arizona, but hospitals are strained similarly to last winter’s surge of the virus.

“This is not where we hoped we would be this holiday season; however, we have a vaccine now and we all know what we have to do to stop the spread,” Flanagan said.

Flanagan also said the county is helping to stand up monoclonal antibody treatment sites outside of hospitals so patients aren’t having to go to the hospitals for the treatment.

On Wednesday Gov. Ducey renewed an executive order banning the state, counties, cities and towns from imposing vaccine mandates.

“What I encourage people to do is to talk to your local family physician,” Ducey said. “And please listen to their local family physician they’ll give you good advice.”

RELATED: Ducey renews order banning vaccine mandates for government employees as Arizona hospitals stretched to the limit

Deaths from COVID-19 continue

Between the last two days, the Arizona Department of Health Services reported 101 more people have died from the virus. 

Since the start of the pandemic, 23,344 people have died from the virus statewide.

As for if a change in strategy is needed to address COVID-19 in Arizona, Ducey said the state would stay the course.

“I’m confident our policies will meet this moment and we’ll provide hospitals with resources so they can care for the sick,” Ducey said.

In Yavapai County, the county board money this week to get a refrigerated morgue trailer because the Medical Examiner’s Office has run out of current refrigerated space with so many people dying from COVID-19.

Flanagan reiterated to the community to get vaccinated, wear masks, physically distance and take all the other good hygiene measures that have worked before.

“As long as we’re in this situation we need everyone to please help us keep our healthcare system intact,” Flanagan said.

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