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6 Southern Nevada hospitals have low numbers of available ICU beds

Updated September 16, 2021 - 6:12 am

Some Southern Nevada hospital intensive-care units remain near staffed capacity, despite a decline in hospitalizations due to COVID-19.

Last week, six hospitals in the Las Vegas Valley reported having fewer than 10 percent of their staffed adult ICU beds available, according to federal data. The statistics average hospitals’ occupancy levels from Sept. 3 through 9.

At three of those hospitals — Centennial Hills Hospital Medical Center, Henderson Hospital and Southern Hills Hospital and Medical Center — half or more of ICU beds were being used to treat patients with COVID-19, according to data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Two facilities, Henderson and Sunrise Hospital and Medical Center, showed having no ICU beds available.

But local ICUs are not in danger of being overwhelmed by patients right now, said Chris Loftus, an executive with the Valley Health System, which operates six acute-care hospitals in the Las Vegas Valley.

“I would tell the community to not be afraid of any numbers that they might see that say ‘Oh no, that facility is full in their ICU,’ ” said Loftus, CEO of Desert Springs Hospital Medical Center. “We work very efficiently across the Valley Health System… to make sure that we’re extremely efficient at getting those patients in, getting them treated safely and getting them out so that they can go home and be with their family.”

Loftus said the hospital system, which includes Centennial Hills Hospital Medical Center and Henderson Hospital, is able to transfer or redirect patients to its less-full facilities when one nears capacity. If a large surge of COVID-19 cases causes people to seek emergency care, the hospitals have plans to add more capacity.

“We’ve been through this for 18 months,” he said of the pandemic. “Right now we feel very comfortable with it.”

In Northern Nevada, some hospitals’ emergency departments are at capacity with patients, Nevada Hospital Association president and CEO Pat Kelly wrote in a statement.

The organization put out a statement Thursday asking Nevadans to help health care workers and hospitals by getting vaccinated, wearing masks, avoiding a hospital emergency room for COVID-19 testing and using an urgent care center or primary care provider for non-emergent care.

Trends hopeful in Southern Nevada

To determine hospital capacity, the federal data measures “staffed beds,” which are both physically available and have hospital staff to treat patients.

Hospitals across Nevada are experiencing staffing levels that are in a state of “alert,” the hospital association reported Thursday. That means “immediate additional mitigation methods are required to keep the hospital system operational.”

Multiple local hospitals have reported staffing shortages this summer.

HCA Healthcare spokesman Antonio Castelan wrote in an email that hospitals throughout the country are dealing with nursing shortages in particular. His company, which operates both Southern Hills Hospital and Sunrise Hospital and Medical Center, was offering signing bonuses and enhanced training programs for new employees.

Suspected and confirmed COVID-19 hospitalizations have trended downward in Clark County since early August. At that time more than 1,100 people were hospitalized, and as of Tuesday, there were fewer than 800.

Almost 1,000 hospitals beds and more than 200 ICU beds were available in the county as of Wednesday.

“At this stage in the pandemic, our hospital operations are fairly normal, we are conducting elective surgeries and have enough beds for all our patients, including those with COVID-19,” Castelan wrote.

Northern Nevada at capacity

Rural and Northern Nevada are still seeing increases in COVID-19 patients, the hospital association reports.

About 200 people were hospitalized in Washoe County as of this week, about four times as many patients as there were at the beginning of August.

Renown Regional Medical Center, the region’s largest hospital, reported that 95 percent of its staffed adult hospital beds were full between Sept. 3 and 9. Its ICU was 86 percent full, according to federal data.

Northern Nevada Medical Center’s ICU was more than 90 percent full, with more than two-thirds of beds being used to treat COVID-19 patients. The ICU at Saint Mary’s Regional Medical Center was 86 percent full.

Overcrowding at Washoe County emergency rooms has been made worse by people seeking rapid COVID-19 tests, the hospital association reported.

On Wednesday, county Health Officer Kevin Dick urged people to visit emergency rooms “for emergencies only.” He also reminded the public to get vaccinated.

“I’m hearing preposterous stories about how the vaccine is killing people, it’s harming people, it’s causing them to go blind, to go deaf. I can assure you that the hospitals are not filling up because people are having reactions from the COVID-19 vaccine. The hospitals are filling up because people aren’t getting vaccinated and they’re getting COVID-19 and they’re spreading COVID-19 in our communities.”

Contact Michael Scott Davidson at sdavidson@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3861. Follow @davidsonlvrj on Twitter.

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