TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Florida has seen a record increase in coronavirus cases over the past week.
With the recent rise in cases, 8 On Your Side wanted to know: if you or someone you love needs critical care, will your local hospital have room to help?
We focused on one critical piece of information: the number of available intensive care unit beds. For the sickest of the sick, it can mean the difference between life and death.
“It’s not like pneumonia, it is not like a flu…it’s relentless,” said Norine Mungo.
The 66-year-old suffers from asthma and an auto-immune disease. She’s been battling coronavirus in the hospital for nine days in Pinellas County.
“How is your breathing?” asked investigative reporter Mahsa Saeidi.
“I can breathe real shallowly. If I take a deep breath, I start coughing,” said Mungo. “I ask every day if I’ll be going home soon…they can’t tell me because on a turn of a dime, I could wind up in ICU.”
But with Florida reporting a record number of new coronavirus cases, would there even be an ICU bed available for Mungo, should she need one?
“Statewide this has been something that’s been incredibly stable,” Gov. Ron DeSantis said.
Despite the alarming increase in cases, the governor said Tuesday the number of COVID-19 patients in intensive care units has dramatically dropped.
“So yeah, it’s something that you should be concerned about but the idea that somehow we’ve reached capacity, that’s just totally not true statewide,” said Gov. DeSantis.
8 On Your Side dug through available data and found that three out of four ICU beds are currently occupied in Florida. But the state doesn’t say what percentage of those beds are booked with COVID-19 patients.
“Is that a concerning number for you?” asked investigative reporter Mahsa Saeidi.
“Yes, and that’s the big question that nobody has data,” Dr. John Greene, the chief of infectious diseases at Moffitt Cancer Center said. “Now, if we really get into a crisis mode, the recovery rooms, for example, where people recover after operating, those are quickly converted to ICU beds with ventilators.”
Right now, as Mungo is in the fight of her life, she has a message for the public.
“You’re keeping us from getting this by wearing your mask, please wear the mask,” she said.
The Agency for Health Care Administration sent 8 On Your Side the following statement:
“Data in the Emergency Status System, which is reflected on the Agency’s Hospital Bed Capacity Dashboard, is dynamic and changes throughout the day as it’s reported into our system.
The Agency is in frequent communication with hospital leadership, and there is no concern with regard to the amount of beds that can be converted to allow additional bed availability. Bed availability percentages may change due to facilities taking beds offline as facilities adjust to more normal operations. Taking beds offline will create lower availability. Additionally, facilities maintaining lower bed counts in general will see greater fluctuations.
Hospitals plan and prepare for surge, although that additional capacity is not reflected on the dashboard. Hospitals have the ability to convert beds and bring additional ICU beds online in a surge situation when necessary. Within 48 hours, hospitals have the capability to dramatically increase statewide staffed capacity in the event of a surge situation.”
Here’s how many ICU beds are available in each Tampa Bay area county as of 11 a.m. on June 17:
- HILLSBOROUGH: 19% available (81 beds)
- PINELLAS: 15% available (50 beds)
- POLK: 33% available (53 beds)
- SARASOTA: 32% available (33 beds)
- PASCO: 24% available (32 beds)
- MANATEE: 35% available (35 beds)
- CITRUS: 23% available (9 beds)
- HERNANDO: 28% available (19 beds)
- HIGHLANDS: 47% available (14 beds)
- HARDEE COUNTY: Hardee County does not have ICU beds ever
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