JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – New data from Florida’s Agency For Health Care Administration shows beds are limited in hospitals’ intensive care units across the state.
The ICUs are always reserved for the sickest patients and the units are considered essential for patients fighting off severe cases of the novel coronavirus that require ventilators.
General hospital beds also were about 70% occupied, according to numbers from the state Agency for Health Care Administration.
SEE THE RAW DATA: Hospital ICU Beds Census and Staffed Availability
The director of infection prevention at UF Health in Jacksonville, Chad Neilsen, told News4Jax this level of occupation in ICUs is not uncommon.
“It’s all very flexible and fluid depending on the patient scenario in our hospital,” Neilsen said. “We probably run on average about 70% ICU occupied anyway. During the winter, most hospitals are running closer to 80 to 85% ICU occupancy. So the numbers can fluctuate quite a bit.”
Neilsen also said hospitals have surge plans for different scenarios including a COVID-19 outbreak, large influx of trauma patients and mass casualty situations.
“We could convert beds quickly to ICU levels of care, we would try to, if appropriate, discharge patients to free up more bed space, in order to take on the increasing capacity of patients,” Neilsen said.
Florida is currently seeing a surge in new coronavirus cases with the state’s seven highest daily increases since the pandemic began coming in the last week.
But it’s not clear if that’s what’s causing the near-shortage in ICU beds. In fact, a Jacksonville doctor told News4Jax on Wednesday that -- at least locally -- most of the patients coming to the hospital with COVID-19 right now aren’t showing severe symptoms that require ventilators.
“We are getting a mixed bag. We’re probably seeing more of those patients who are not requiring a higher level of care,” said Marko Predic, who works in infectious disease prevention at UF Health Jacksonville. “We’re getting symptomatic patients with sore throats, high fevers, a lot of shortness of breath, but not as (many) in critical condition. And that goes for all ages.”
Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry also pointed to lower hospitalization numbers for COVID-19 patients as evidence that the city has “flattened the curve.”
Curry said that there were 46 COVID-19 in-patients in Duval County hospitals as of Monday, down from a peak of 80 on May 28. He said he’s also seen a decrease in 911 calls and rescue transports related to coronavirus patients.
While novel coronavirus cases have surged in Florida, the state’s hospitals have also been permitted to resume elective surgeries. Those surgeries, emergencies and coronavirus patients statewide could all be contributing to the lack of ICU bed availability across the state.
County-by-county breakdowns last updated Thursday, show that in Duval County, about 104 of the area’s 408 adult ICU beds are available.
Notably, at UF Health in Jacksonville, there aren’t any ICU beds available. State numbers show out of the 100 adult ICU beds at the facility, none are open. News4Jax was told that only seven of the ICU patients at UF Health were COVID-19 cases.
Mayo Clinic’s ICU might soon fill up as well. Only four beds are listed as available, according to state data. The hospital has 48 ICU beds in total. Memorial Hospital and Baptist Medical Center in Jacksonville and Jacksonville Beach show the facilities are at or near 75% full.
In all of Clay County, only 42 ICU beds are available ever. As of Thursday morning, only 11 were empty. St. Johns County also has a lower number of ICU beds with 44 total beds, but 24 were available Thursday. Flagler Hospital beat the state’s average, having 54% of its beds still available.
In Columbia and Alachua counties, hospital ICU beds are 90% full.
Elsewhere around Florida, the availability of adult ICU beds varies by county. Rural Jackson County, for example, has only six adult ICU beds, and five were available Wednesday.
Meanwhile, St. Lucie County had just 8.89% of its 90 adult ICU beds available, the lowest percentage in the state.
In COVID-19 hotspot areas, Palm Beach County had 73 of its 406 adult ICU beds available, meaning that 82% were occupied. Miami-Dade County had 980 adult ICU beds, with 240 of them, or about 24%, available.
It was a similar story in neighboring Broward County, where 24% of the 478 ICU beds were available. Rates were lower in some other large urban counties, including in Pinellas County, where 15% of the 326 beds were open.
The News Service of Florida contributed to this report.