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Inside Valleywise Health Medical Center's COVID-19 unit

"It use to be a happy place full of children and now we are in the midst of a new battle and preparing for a tsunami of new COVID cases."

PHOENIX — Arizona hospitals are bracing for a new surge of COVID-19 patients as the virus continues to spread across the state at an alarming rate. 

During the initial summer wave, Valleywise Health Medical Center officials turned their pediatric emergency wing into a COVID-19 war room to care for more than 90 COVID-19 positive patients.

There have been 291,696 confirmed cases of coronavirus and 6,427 coronavirus-related deaths reported in Arizona as of Friday. 

4,471 new cases, 43 new deaths reported Friday

The Arizona Department of Health Services reported 4,471 new cases and 43 new deaths on Friday.

Friday was the second day in a row that more than 4,000 new cases were reported in Arizona. It was also the second-highest number of new daily cases ever reported in Arizona, after 4,877 new cases were reported on July 1.

COVID-19-related hospitalizations in Arizona have climbed steadily since October and into November, reaching 1,835 as of Thursday, including 431 patients in intensive-care beds. 

The current hospitalizations are about half of the peak during Arizona’s summer surge and more than three times the levels seen in September during a comparative lull before the current surge.

In just two weeks, Valleywise has doubled in COVID cases to nearly 40 patients. 

The uptick is beginning to place a strain on staff, usually working 12 hour shifts, three to four times a week. 

Now that the virus is once again widespread, the hospital is placing new visitation restrictions beginning Monday. 

Valleywise Health Medical Center visitor restrictions amid COVID-19 wave

"In continual response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Valleywise Health, Maricopa County’s public health safety net system continues to update practices and procedures. See below updates:

  • Visitor Restrictions: Valleywise Health Medical Center on Monday, Nov. 23, will reinstate the below restrictions to protect patients and staff from further spread.
  • One (1) healthy parent/guardian per pediatric/NICU patient
  • One (1) healthy support person per laboring/postpartum mother
  • End of life situations to be handled on a case by case basis
  • One (one) healthy support person/caregiver for vulnerable patients who may have but not limited to the list below:
  • Autism
  • Downs Syndrome
  • Cerebral Palsy
  • Related complex disabilities with cognitive impairments

During the summer restrictions, medical staff stepped in as dying patients took their last breath. 

“We’ve had to do video conferences or telephones when family is outside because their loved one is dying,” said ICU nurse Jim Fowler.  

Fowler has seen dozens of his patients die in the last eight months and thought of this new surge is his worst nightmare. 

“Coming into work not knowing what you’re going to walk into, not knowing how many patients you’re going to take care of that shift, not knowing how many patients will be fearful or upset because they can’t have family at the bedside. It's tough."

Staffing is also a concern. During the summer months, states were inconsistent with surges which allowed easier recruitment for traveling staff. Now, the entire country is surging at the same time. 

This hospital is accredited by DNV Healthcare under the authority of the US Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. This facility will also be compliant with the ISO 9001 Quality Management System. Your health has always been our number one priority - and it always will be.

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