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Two hospitals reach max ICU capacity due to COVID-19 patients
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Two hospitals reach max ICU capacity due to COVID-19 patients

(Vehicles in line at the University Health Wellness bus visiting West Valley. Credit: Steve Griffin, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY – Health care workers are getting more and more overwhelmed with the extremely high number of COVID-19 patients.  Two different hospitals in Utah reached max ICU capacity over the weekend, and they expect to see full ICUs again this week.

There are two different ICUs at the University of Utah Hospital.  One, the surgical ICU, is normally reserved for people recovering from surgeries and other traumas, like car crashes or heart attacks.  The other is their medical ICU, which is where they have been treating their COVID-19 patients.  When health officials talk about bed utilization, University Health officials are combining both ICUs into one number.

University Health Spokesperson Kathy Wilets says, “That ICU bed number can change from day-to-day and hour-to-hour.”

However, on Friday, both of them were full beyond capacity.  Wilets says they weren’t necessarily filled with COVID-19 patients, but they had to open other areas of the hospital to treat everyone who needed it.  Normally, there are two waves of workers to handle the workload, but things have been so busy, lately, University Health had to hire a third.

Things have calmed down, slightly, since Friday.  Wilets says by Monday morning, they were somewhere between 80-90 percent capacity.  However, the near future looks bleak, as they expect to be maxed out to capacity again this week.

“That’s what the people who prepare the data and the projections for hospitals.  It’s based on the number of positive cases coming in,” she says

In southern Utah, officials at Intermountain Healthcare had a similar problem.

“Intermountain Dixie Regional Medical Center in St. George, yesterday, opened a special ‘Surge ICU’ to help care for those patients,” according to Intermountain Healthcare Spokesman Jess Gomez.

Beds aren’t the real issue, Gomez says.  He says their workers are being stretched thin because of the high number of hospitalizations.  He says numbers are rising all over Utah.

“We’ll continue to monitor it across the state in all of our hospitals,” he says.

Gomez says this is the time of year we normally start to see a lot of other patients coming into their ICUs for respiratory issues, and they need to keep as many beds open as possible to allow those patients to get treatment.



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