It’s officially showtime for Arizona’s hospital system. Last week was an extremely busy week for health care systems with near capacity  ICU care across the state.

Reports from the Field

While the rate of increase for some key hospital-specific metrics appears to be leveling out, the total impact of patient need on current health system capacity remains at a record high – especially in the central & southern parts of Arizona.

COVID-19 hospitalizations in Arizona have increased with hospitals reporting nearly 3,500 COVID-19 inpatients and more than 900 patients in their intensive care units. Hospitals have activated additional beds in their facilities and have been hiring more more nursing staff.

In northern Arizona, variability in need and impact continues; some previously busy hospitals have experienced lower inpatient census for COVID-19 care while other facilities are experiencing new highs.

Out-of-State Healthcare Workers Coming to the Rescue

The AZ Surge Line continues to coordinate patient transfers to higher and lower levels of care. Some of the delays in patient placements last week were because of a statewide shortage of available staffed beds. 

Recognizing that Arizona’s hospital systems are at the breaking point staffing-wise, the ADHS contracted with Vizient, Inc. to bring in 600 critical care and medical-surgical nurses from out of state into Arizona to support expanded capacity within Arizona hospitals (here’s the contract).

Staff will be allocated and deployed using the Surge Staffing Initiative. Hospitals received the application forms this week. Here’s an the application questions and attestations

Hospitals that need this critical staffing support can get it for free  for up to six weeks up to 20% of their licensed capacity expenses to implement their surge plans to fill staffing gaps. The money to pay the contractor is coming from the Public Health Emergency Fund.  The governor deposited $50M into that fund last week.

Editorial Note: June and July are the 2 months of the year in which patient census is significantly lower than the annual average.  In fact, June typically has 1,700 fewer inpatients than the annual average and July about 1,200. August comes back closer to the annual average.  That means additional staffed bed demand will be increasing in the coming months as normal, non COVID, patients begin returning to hospitals.