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Greater Cincinnati hospital beds are filling up with post-holiday COVID-19 surge

COVID-19 hospital
Posted at 4:38 PM, Jan 14, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-15 20:10:28-05

CINCINNATI — Over his 20-year career at the Christ Hospital in Mount Auburn, Dr. Mark Scott typically signed one or two death certificates per week. This week alone, he's signed six, and beds in his intensive care unit are continuing to fill up as Tri-State counties see a post-holiday surge in coronavirus cases.

"It certainly has gotten worse," the pulmonologist and critical care specialist told WCPO. "It can be devastating, and, again, age doesn't necessarily protect you, whether that's the quantity of exposure, the intensity of exposure... Even young individuals can get desperately ill with this."

Across Southwest Ohio Thursday, 858 people were hospitalized with COVID-19; 177 of those are in ICUs. That's a 50% increase in the past two months, according to Ohio Hospital Association spokesman John Palmer.

"A lot of hospitals have -- because of the capacity issues, especially in the ICU intensive care units -- have made the decision to postpone a lot of nonessential surgeries and procedures," Palmer said. "Frankly, that's somebody that is unable to get care because there's been priorities established with trying to treat COVID."

As of Thursday, COVID-19 patients filled 689 ICU beds across the region's five largest hospital systems, according to data provided by The Health Collaborative's senior director of clinical initiatives, Tiffany Mattingly. She said the majority of the Tri-State's hospitals have been bringing additional ICU and medical/surgery beds for months as needed, as part of a long-term plan.

This makes the number of beds online on any given day fluid, but for context, Mattingly said the maximum number of ICU beds the region's hospitals can accommodate without straining staff and resources is 464.

"We're seeing sicker patients and more patients hitting the ICU right now," she said. "If a hospital can add on additional beds, it's safer to keep the patient there than to transfer the patient to another hospital and transition that care."

Still, Mattingly said, the situation could be worse.

"If the region were to get to a point where we need to start transferring across hospitals and health systems, we would be at a high capacity," she said.

Scott said he wasn't worried about running out of equipment or space Thursday night, but staff members are taking on more hours and more responsibilities.

"If you can do whatever it takes to minimize your personal risk, you should do that," he said.