The state of Arizona reported 2,106 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, September 22. There were 74 new COVID-related deaths. In hospitals, 31% of adult intensive care unit (ICU) beds are currently in use by COVID-19 patients and statewide, only 9% of adult ICU beds remain available, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services COVID-19 data dashboard.
The current surge is demoralizing health care workers as national deaths per day have climbed to more than 1,900 on average, according to the Associated Press. Dr. William Moss of Johns Hopkins University spoke to the ongoing effects of the surge in America’s hospitals:
I think this is a real failure of society and our most egregious sin to be at this stage where we have hospitals overwhelmed, and hitting this mark in terms of deaths per day.
Hospitals are struggling to care for patients due to large numbers of hospitalizations of individuals unvaccinated against COVID-19. Fox 10 Phoenix reports that most of the victims of the COVID-19 surge attributed to the delta variant have been under the age of 50. Arizona Public Health Association executive director Will Humble explained that avoiding vaccination in hopes of receiving forms of treatment like monoclonal antibodies isn’t the ideal:
It’s not a terrific clinical treatment to begin with. It needs to be given early on. The clinical guidelines are only for people with higher risk medical conditions and it costs thousands of dollars. Rather than the vaccine, that costs $15.
It turns out that treating complex COVID-19 cases isn’t cheap at all. According to Modern Healthcare, complex COVID cases can involve ventilation, transfusions, time spent in the ICU, and other equipment and services. This all adds up to a $98,139 average negotiated rate that now includes patient cost-sharing, and hospitals now bill insurers for up to three times the negotiated rate.
Rural hospitals are especially struggling to keep up with the overwhelming effects of the surge. According to KNAU, smaller hospitals are trying to balance caring for patients without having to transfer them to major hospitals experiencing temporarily diminished capacity. A Tucson gastroenterologist drove to Green Valley last week to operate on a patient who could not be transferred to get the surgery and subsequently filed a complaint with AZDHS about the inability to transfer. From Stephen Harris, CEO of Santa Cruz Valley Regional Hospital:
We started calling the hospitals in Tucson and Phoenix, and every single one turned us down. [The patient survived] only because this doctor was nice enough, was human enough to save his life.
The Arizona Border Counties Coalition, which includes County Supervisors from Pima, Cochise, Santa Cruz and Yuma counties, has appealed to AZDHS in a letter this week to allow rural hospitals to transfer critically ill patients to larger regional facilities as rural providers are “nearing collapse” due to the influx of patients with COVID-19, the Tucson Sentinel reports.
The overcrowding of larger regional hospitals and emergency centers has resulted in an increasing inability for providers to ensure a timely transfer of critically ill patients from rural areas to the required higher level of care.
When asked about expanding the surge line in a Banner Health press conference on Wednesday, Banner Health chief medical officer Dr. Marjorie Bessel countered that the surge in urban centers in Arizona is stressing Banner’s ability to accept patient transfers:
We are working very closely with the Arizona Department of Health Services with our own transfer line to continue to accept as many patients as we can. It is not just the rural hospitals that are at times overwhelmed with the volume of patients, but it is really all hospitals within the health care delivery systems within the state of Arizona at this time that are very stressed, trying to meet the needs of all patients that need us, both COVID and non-COVID. We will continually work with those sending hospitals with our transfer services and in a collaborative fashion with other health care systems and with the surge line to best meet the needs of those patients.
Get the latest updates on COVID-19 numbers at the AZDHS Covid-19 data dashboard.