Battleground Florida: Tampa Bay hospital bed availability worse than South Florida

Coronavirus

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – Since the coronavirus pandemic began, South Florida has been the hardest-hit area of the Sunshine State.

Now, Tampa Bay’s outbreak is catching up.

Hospital bed availability in the biggest counties in the bay area — Hillsborough, Pinellas, Polk, and Sarasota — was lower than all of South Florida, including Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties.

None of those counties had more than 20 percent of their hospital beds available as of Sunday morning, according to data from Florida’s Agency for Health Care Administration. The lowest hospital bed availability in South Florida was 23 percent in Broward County.

Availability of beds in intensive care units in Tampa Bay was even lower in some counties.

ICU bed availability in Hillsborough, Pinellas, Polk and Pasco counties was all lower than South Florida, ranging from 5 percent in Polk to 17 percent in Hillsborough, according to AHCA data. Broward County had the lowest ICU bed availability in South Florida, at 18 percent as of Sunday morning.

“I think you have every right to be worried,” said Ben Conarck, health care reporter at the Miami Herald.

Conarck said while bed availability is low, the issue goes beyond just where to put people — it’s also about who’s treating them.

“It’s not necessarily that you don’t have anywhere to put people,” Conarck said. “Beds are one thing, nurses are what help people get better.”

“When you’re looking at people who are suffering severe outcomes of COVID-19, you really need one nurse to one patient,” said Conarck. “15 to 18 percent in the ICU — you get any lower than that, you’re playing with fire, approaching a situation like we saw in New York where you have to decide who gets treatment and who doesn’t.”

“That doesn’t mean we’re running out of ventilator,” Conarck said. “We have plenty. But you still need nurses to treat these people. It’s really a staffing issue.”

Watch 8 On Your Side’s weekly political show Battleground Florida with host Evan Donovan every Sunday morning at 9:30, right before Meet the Press.

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