With nearly 3,000 critical care patients, Georgia ICUs are now 98% full

In a state with more than 3,100 ICU beds,  you would think it would be hard to fill them all. But, Georgia is now dangerously close to running out of critical care beds.

Anna Adams, Senior Vice President of External Affairs for the Georgia Hospital Association, says she is getting calls from hospitals struggling to keep up with the surge in patients who need care.

"My phone starts ringing at about 7:30 a.m., and I'm still answering questions at about 11:30 p.m.," Adams says. "You'd think this far into the pandemic, we'd have it down to an art.  But, it's a new fire that pops up every day."

Adams and the GHA are tracking the number of available critical care beds as hospitals report their daily numbers.

As of Friday, 2,998 ICU beds were occupied.

"We are fluctuating at around 100 ICU beds (open) statewide, which is about 98% of our ICU beds are occupied," Adams says.  "This is a number we have not seen throughout this pandemic."

On Friday, 5,732 COVID-19 patients were hospitalized across Georgia, and about 53% or 2,110, of the state's ventilators were in use.

Adams says one of the biggest challenges hospitals are facing is finding enough bed space to keep up with the surge.

"Many hospitals are talking about putting patients in conference rooms, having patients in offices," she says. "We're putting beds everywhere we can put them."

The hospitals are also dealing with major staffing shortages, a nationwide issue.

Adams says for each ICU bed that is filled, hospitals need doctors, nurses and respiratory therapists to care for that patient.

"We have hospitals that are having ICU nurses treat as many as 8, 9 patients at a time," Adams explains.  "Even in a typical inpatient medical-surgical unit, 10 patients for 1 nurse is unheard of.  But these people need to be hospitalized."

Intensive care units in four of Georgia's sixteen hospital regions are now over 100% capacity.

If the numbers continue to climb, Adams says, hospitals will stay open.

"We're going to continue to take these patients, but that's where it starts to become challenging from a patient care standpoint," she says  "If an ICU nurse is responsible for six patients, where, in normal times they would care for one or two, that impacts the patient outcomes."

Emergency departments are full, too.

Hospitals are asking people to only come to the emergency departments for true medical emergencies.

For COVID-19 testing, Adams says, speak to your doctor or visit a community testing site.

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