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Pinellas County Administrator monitoring ICU bed capacity, staff shortages

As Pinellas County hospitals drop to less than 15% of available ICU beds for the entire county, leaders are also concerned about staff shortages.

PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. — For a few weeks now, county and city leaders across Tampa Bay have been watching ICU bed availability very closely.

As coronavirus cases surge across the state, the Florida Agency for Healthcare Administration (AHCA) offers a dashboard with ICU bed availability.

According to the AHCA dashboard, as of Monday, July 6 at 2 p.m., Pinellas County had 45 beds available, about 14% of their total bed capacity.

The dashboard shows the following five hospitals have zero ICU beds open:

  • Mease Dunedin Hospital
  • AdventHealth North Pinellas Hospital (Tarpon Springs)
  • Morton Plant Hospital (Clearwater)
  • St. Petersburg General Hospital
  • Northside Hospital (St. Petersburg)

10 Tampa Bay reached out to the three health care companies that own and operate those five hospitals (BayCare, AdventHealth, and HCA Healthcare) to see if the information on the AHCA dashboard is accurate.

RELATED: Six Pinellas County hospitals have zero percent ICU bed availability

A spokesperson with HCA West Florida Division sent 10 Tampa Bay a statement that said in part: 

The numbers reported to AHCA each day that you are referencing reflect a moment in time, while our hospitals are continuously adjusting to accommodate our patient needs. As part of our surge planning, we have the ability to increase bed capacity if needed through.

A BayCare spokesperson sent this information:

As COVID-19 cases continue to increase across the Tampa Bay area, Pinellas and Hillsborough counties have seen available hospital bed capacity decline significantly in the past month. Our hospitals in both counties are no exception. As we announced late last week, we will begin reducing the number of non-urgent surgeries performed in our Pinellas County hospitals to ensure there is capacity for a growing number of severely-ill COVID-19 patients. BayCare’s top priority is the health and well-being of our patients and the community and we’re working together with officials and other health systems in both counties to properly respond to the pandemic. 

Also, keep in mind that on the AHCA website is a document that defines the data in the dashboard as the number of ICU beds staffed at the time of reporting.  This is a constantly changing number.

On July 5th, a spokesperson with AdventHealth told 10 Tampa Bay, "The information that we do not have ICU beds at AdventHealth North Pinellas is not accurate. Below you will find our statement on capacity and would encourage you to reach out to AHCA to provide additional context to their count."

All hospitals in the AdventHealth West Florida Division are closely and continuously monitoring positive COVID-19 cases in their facility. We currently have sufficient personal protective equipment (PPE) for our team members, patients and guests, as well as available med-surg beds, ICU beds and ventilators, should they be needed. The planning and protocols we put in place earlier this year, including strict safety guidelines, quarantining of COVID-19 patients in designated units and care areas, and enhanced cleaning measures, has well-positioned us to respond and ensure the continued high quality care for our community. It is important to note, that while cases are increasing, we are not experiencing a surge in patients who require hospitalization due to COVID-19 but we remain prepared to take care of any patient in need of our services.

10 Tampa Bay contacted AHCA to clarify the accuracy of the dashboard.

Patrick Manderfield, the Deputy Communications Director with the Agency For Health Care Administration sent the following details:

The data is self-reported daily into the Agency’s Emergency Status System by facilities, and the information is dynamic and changes throughout the day as it’s reported into our system.

 As of 8:45 a.m. today, Pinellas County has 15 percent of ICU beds available and Hillsborough County has more than 16 percent of ICU beds available. If necessary, any person who needs an ICU bed would be transferred to an area hospital with availability, and right now, we have no reason to believe individuals who need ICU beds are not being given that level of care. 

 Hospitals have the ability to convert beds and bring additional ICU beds online in a surge situation when necessary. Hospitals plan and prepare for surge, although that additional capacity is not reflected on the dashboard. Some hospitals have discontinued elective procedures as a way to increase bed capacity. 

 The Agency is in frequent communication with hospital leadership with regard to the amount of beds that can be converted to allow additional bed availability. Questions on whether a hospital can accommodate patients should be referred directly to local hospitals. 

RELATED: Tampa Bay-area hospitals make adjustments as COVID-19 cases rise, patients get admitted into ICUs

Barry Burton is the Pinellas County Administrator. He and other leaders are in contact with hospitals in the county about three times a week.

"It is a concern. We’re monitoring the hospital ICU beds. We’re working with the hospitals on alternative plans, trying to work with them to address some of their staffing issues and things like that," said Burton.

Burton confirmed the 14 percent ICU bed availability for the county citing AHCA as his point of data; however, Burton explained that hospitals have surge plans and the ability to open up more beds if possible.

Burton said, "There’s a number of issues going on within our hospitals. One, obviously we have more COVID patients. There’s no question. About 30 percent of our ICU beds are a result of COVID."

Baycare and HCA Healthcare opted to pull back on elective surgeries to prepare for a possible surge due to the coronavirus.

RELATED: BayCare will reduce number of non-urgent surgeries in Pinellas County

RELATED: Pasco County keeping close eye on hospital capacity and ICU bed availability

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