In Florida Hospitals, ‘There Are Only So Many Beds’

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) -
In this undated photo provided by Memorial Healthcare System, a conference area is shown that has been turned into a COVID-19 unit at Memorial Hospital Miramar., in Miramar, Fla.  (Memorial Healthcare System via AP)

A South Florida hospital chain is suspending elective surgeries and putting beds in conference rooms, an auditorium and even a cafeteria as many more patients seek treatment for COVID-19.

“We are seeing a surge like we’ve not seen before in terms of the patients coming,” Memorial Healthcare System’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Marc Napp said Wednesday during a news conference in Hollywood.

Napp said they’ve opened up an additional 250 beds at Memorial’s six hospitals in Broward County.

Unlike during last year’s spring and summer COVID surges when many sick people tried to avoid hospitals for fear of catching the virus, patients suffering from other ailments are also seeking treatment now, Napp explained.

On Wednesday, there were more than 1,600 inpatients admitted for overnight stays across the system’s facilities. Typically, the health system doesn’t have more than about 1,400 inpatients under its care at a time.

“This is the highest number of patients Memorial has ever seen,” he said. “It’s the sheer number coming in at the same time. There are only so many beds, so many doctors, only so many nurses,” Napp said.

Across Florida, more than 12,000 patients were hospitalized with COVID-19 on Wednesday, and nearly 2,500 of them were in ICU beds. On Tuesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported more than 50,000 new COVID-19 cases in Florida during a three-day span, raising the seven-day average to one of the highest counts since the pandemic began. In total, the state has seen more than 2.6 million cases and 39,179 deaths.

Gov. Ron DeSantis has rejected calls to enforce CDC recommendations that nearly everyone wear masks indoors until vaccination rates increase significantly. The Republican leader says deciding whether to mask up or get the shots must remain an individual choice, and meanwhile it’s important to keep Florida’s economy moving.

“Florida is a free state, and we will empower our people. We will not allow Joe Biden and his bureaucratic flunkies to come in and commandeer the rights and freedoms of Floridians,” DeSantis, who has been exploring the possibility of running for president in 2024, said in a fundraising email Wednesday night.

At Memorial, Napp said the patients being treated for COVID-19 are largely unvaccinated.

The COVID-19 vaccines were designed to prevent severe illness and death, and none are 100% effective, so public health experts have always expected a small number of “breakthrough” cases with milder infections among the vaccinated.