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Manatee County hospitals in need of nurses; running low on hospital beds

The county has requested 123 extra nurses and respiratory therapists.

MANATEE COUNTY, Fla. — Florida’s governor has said hospitals can expand to make sure they've got enough beds for patients if the spread of coronavirus worsens.

But, beds aren't the only problem when it comes to shortages -- there's also a shortage of nurses.

Counties in southern Tampa Bay especially are seeing a staffing shortage.

In Manatee County, there are only 15 ICU beds left available.

“We've noticed that uptick in the decrease of bed availability,” Manatee County Public Safety Director Jacob Saur said. “Now, all three hospitals do have space for those additional patients, but unfortunately they do not have the staffing for that."

Blake Medical Center says it has zero ICU beds and Manatee Memorial has only three.

Both hospitals have more physical beds but can’t use them for ICU without more nurses. So they've asked the state for help.

“The Florida Department of Emergency Management... they are working to assist the hospitals by bringing in additional staff,” Saur said.

In total, the county has requested 123 extra nurses and respiratory therapists.

Manatee memorial needs 34, Blake medical needs 56 and Lakewood Ranch Medical needs 33. Filling this need will lead to more ICU openings

“The good news is we've got nurses that have started working over the last couple weeks and it's starting to help,” said Randy Currin, the president and chief executive officer of Blake Medical Center.

"So once we deploy those nurses we will have the ability to open up additional beds,” said Kevin DiLallo, the CEO of Manatee Healthcare System.

“We had six that came from FEMA, we also had four respiratory therapists and some certified nurse assistance as well,” DiLallo said.

Saur says staffing isn't the only shortage Manatee hospitals have had to face during this pandemic. Manatee Memorial says it has enough ventilators only as of now.

“So we have ample inventory at this time of our ventilators,” DiLallo said. “Last week that wasn’t the case, so we stopped elective surgeries just to kind of decompress the hospital."

But at Blake Medical there's only one ventilator left that’s not in use. Hospitals are working to convert anesthesia machines to ventilators.

“We do have contingency plans in the event that we do run out of the main ventilators that we have,” DiLallo said.

Hospitals are also requesting more from the state.

“Additionally Florida Department of Emergency Management has sent us 12 additional ventilators to our public safety department that we can have on hand in case we get low again, we can divvy those out to the three hospitals in the system,” Saur said.

Neighboring hospitals have also been pitching in to help.

“We also have cooperation with different hospitals in the Tampa Bay region,” DiLallo said. “Where we’ve rented ventilators to different hospitals and they have sent ventilators to us as well.”

As far as having enough personal protective equipment, both Sarasota and Manatee hospitals say they have it covered.

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