Health Care Officials Concerned About COVID-19 Cases Overwhelming Hospitals

Jun 23, 2020, 9:08 PM | Updated: Jun 24, 2020, 7:20 am

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Top health care officials from across the state expressed concern about COVID-19 cases overwhelming capacity in Utah’s hospitals.

This comes on top of an earlier warning from state epidemiologist Dr. Angela Dunn about Utah hospitals exceeding their capacity as a result of the continuous jump in coronavirus cases.

“If we continue this trend and do not abate the crisis that is going on now, we will reach capacity in the coming weeks and we will no longer be able to care appropriately for patients with COVID-19, and also those that seek care for other reasons,” said Dr. Eddie Stenehjem with Intermountain Healthcare during Tuesday’s virtual press conference on the importance of wearing a mask. “We are seeing a disturbing and quite frankly an alarming trend in COVID cases.”

As a result, Intermountain Healthcare has a contingency plan to open up new beds in its hospitals. One way is by moving young patients from Riverton Hospital, McKay-Dee Hospital and Utah Valley Hospital to Primary Children’s Hospital.

Then, the pediatric units there can treat COVID-19 patients. Primary Children’s was also ready to accept virus patients up to age 30.

According to Tuesday’s numbers from the state health department, 34 additional people have been hospitalized with COVID-19, raising the state’s total to 166 people.

Across Utah, 62.1 percent of ICU beds were occupied and 44.9 percent of non-ICU beds were taken as of Tuesday.

Dr. Jared Johnstun, critical care unit medical director at St. Mark’s Hospital, said they were watching this trend very closely.

“Three weeks ago I had no COVID patients in ICU,” said Johnstun.

On Tuesday, there were nine patients with the virus at St. Marks; two of them in ICU. But Johnstun believed they’ve never been better prepared to handle an increase.

They have 18 beds in the ICU, but could go from 18 to 60 beds if needed in an emergency.

“In this hospital alone we have the ability to more than triple the number of ICU beds in the building,” he said.

For now, it’s a wait-and-see game for those in the medical profession.

“Those positive cases are the leading edge of what follows several weeks later,” said Dr. Mark Briesacher with Intermountain Healthcare.

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