Data being supplied to Palm Beach County by hospitals shows that due to COVID-19, the county’s 14 hospitals are 9 percent over capacity, according to Palm Beach County Mayor Dave Kerner.
Kerner led an update on the county’s virus response Thursday, Sept. 2 from the Palm Beach County Emergency Operations Center.
The data shows that of the 2,301 beds available, the hospitals are 207 short, although 11 of the total 42 pediatric ICU beds are available.
On Aug. 17, the Palm Beach County Commission declared a state of emergency, putting an order in place that required all hospitals to deliver COVID-19 data to the county, which is being used to create a dashboard on the county’s web site.
“We have since opened the portal,” Kerner said. “It is updated, and that data comes in every day at 11 a.m.”
The county’s COVID-19 dashboard related to the hospital data showed that there were 87 new virus admissions on Wednesday, Sept. 1. Find updated hospital information by clicking on “Hospital Report” at the county’s COVID-19 information page at www.pbcgov.com/coronavirus.
There were 754 adults and 20 patients age 17 and under admitted for COVID-19 since the county started receiving the data. Of those, 79 were fully vaccinated and 564 were not vaccinated.
“There’s 116 patients in the ER who have been triaged, I believe, and are waiting for a bed, but they are holding in an emergency department,” Kerner said. “That’s sort of the first indication that there are some real concerns as we go through this data regarding the status of healthcare in Palm Beach County.”
He said the hospital data shows there are 195 adults with COVID-19 in ICUs and 11 age 17 and under in pediatrics with COVID-19.
Although there are 548 ventilators available, there is a shortage of staff to use the equipment.
“It’s very clear that the ventilator inventory is very robust,” Kerner said. “We have access to ventilators, but I wouldn’t put too much emphasis on that because it’s not simply the ventilators that are effective in saving a life, it’s the staffing and doctors and nurses that go with it.”
He said the other concerning data point was the total capacity, which is 2,823 beds available at all 14 hospitals, with 3,033 occupied.
“Right now, they are upstaffing and upsurging bed capacity to 3,033,” Kerner said. “That means there is a deficit of 210 beds… Take from that what you will, but from my perspective, it’s very concerning that we have hospitals that are in search mode in terms of capacity. They are adding beds, they have the ability to do that, they have the ability to up staff, but we are exceeding the normal footprint of beds in our hospital system.”
He added that the normal footprint of adult ICU capacity of 333 beds has been increased to 347.
“What that means is that there are ICU beds that have been added under the Comprehensive Emergency Management Plan that the hospitals have in effect, and our ICUs are very, very busy,” Kerner said. “A very large majority of those in ICU in Palm Beach County are COVID-19 positive.”
He noted that hospital administrators had been very cooperative and forthright with county representatives.
“The hospitals are very much full, and the data bears that out,” he said. “The perspectives from the doctors and the nurses, and particularly the CEOs and administrators, bear that out. From my perspective, there are chronic staffing issues with healthcare professionals, not just in our community but throughout the United States. That should come as no surprise. We have been well into this pandemic for a year and a half. There is an increased demand for healthcare professionals. There is also burnout that is happening, so as the demand increases and the time goes on, people get burned out and they leave the profession.”
Kerner said the Florida Hospital Association reported there is a deficit of 8,000 nurses in Florida, as well as an oxygen shortage.
“It should come as no surprise that the hospitals are meeting the challenge, the healthcare professionals are meeting the challenge, and it’s very impressive,” he said, thanking the doctors, nurses and hospital staff for their commitment to patients.
Kerner added that Gov. Ron DeSantis was in town on Thursday to give an update on the monoclonal therapy treatment, available at the Westgate Park and Recreation Center.
“This site has a capacity to treat about 300 patients per day and is open seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.,” he said.
Florida Department of Health-Palm Beach County Director Dr. Alina Alonso said the number of COVID-19 cases have been rising and falling, but come the Labor Day holiday, she anticipated a sharp curve upward.
“We’re in this for the long haul, she said. “One of the things that’s making a difference in the number of people being vaccinated and the number of people taking monoclonal therapy here in Palm Beach County, and it’s lifesaving,” Alonso said. “We’ve got 2,087 cases of people who have actually gotten this therapy, and its lifesaving. We need to do more emphasis on physicians being able to give this out to high-risk patients.”
She also urged those not yet vaccinated to get their shots.
“The other thing that I cannot stress enough is, please get vaccinated,” Alonso said. “There is no reason for people to be positive now. The vaccine is available, the vaccine is safe, the vaccine is covering all of the variants, including delta.”