MANATEE COUNTY (WFLA) – Hospitals in Manatee County are starting to hit capacity as COVID-19 cases continue to climb.

“When you hear the hospitals are full, they may have beds open, they may be able to move patients around, they don’t have the staff,” said Manatee County Commissioner Carol Whitmore

At Blake Medical Center in Bradenton, bed availability varies day to day. But hospital CEO Randy Currin tells 8 On Your Side the recent surge in COVID-19 cases is adding additional pressure to the hospital system.

“It has been something for the last couple of weeks that we have been trying to manage through,” said Currin.

Blake Medical center is taking a multifaceted approach to address the surge in hospitalizations. The hospital has deferred elective surgeries and contacted outside staffing companies to help bring in additional resources.

“We actually have 20 additional nurses that will be coming in over the next couple of weeks,” said Currin.

Currin says hospitals across west Florida are experiencing similar staffing pressures.

“We have requested assistance through the state with staffing and then finally throughout our organization, we are trying to develop a pool of resources to redistribute into other areas of the country — either Texas and Florida where they are having difficulty with staffing,” said Currin.

Sarasota County hospital leaders are well aware of capacity issues coming out of Manatee County.

“It is quite concerning when you start seeing your neighboring and nearby hospitals start reaching capacity,” said Dr. James Fiorica with Sarasota Memorial Hospital. “That means that patients are going to need somewhere and right now, that is going to be here.”

Sarasota Memorial Hospital has continued to see an exponential climb in COVID-19 related hospitalizations this month. On July 1, the hospital had 10 COVID patients. On July 17, the hospital’s COVID-19 census was 118.

“The core staff need a break. They can’t sustain these high volumes for long-term,” said Dr. Fiorica. “We are implementing several things to try to give them a break to try to realize that we appreciate them, but they are starting to tire.”

Manatee County Commissioner Carol Whitmore, who is also a nurse, says the county has been in contact with state leaders regarding the surge along the Suncoast.

“Our county administrator is working with Senate President Bill Galvano and the governor’s office with contracts with staffing to help the hospitals in need,” said Whitmore. “The governor was made aware that Manatee County needs staffing.”