Bay County hospitals prepared to deal with COVID-19


FILE – This undated electron microscope image made available by the U.S. National Institutes of Health in February 2020 shows the Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2. Also known as 2019-nCoV, the virus causes COVID-19. The sample was isolated from a patient in the U.S. On Tuesday, April 21, 2020, U.S. health regulators OK’d the first coronavirus test that allows people to collect their own sample at home, a new approach that could help expand testing options in most states. The sample will still have to be shipped for processing back to LabCorp, which operates diagnostic labs throughout the U.S. (NIAID-RML via AP)

Editors Note: We have updated this article and headline to add more clarity in regards to the relationship between COVID-19 care and ICU bed availability.

PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WMBB) — According to Florida’s Agency for Health Care Administration’s online report there were no available ICU beds in Bay County as of July 1st. With rising COVID-19 numbers, we reached out to both hospitals seeking clarification on these numbers.

We learned that the numbers fluctuate daily and that it is not unusual for both hospitals to be at or near capacity. Both hospitals also assured us that they have plans in place if they need more beds, a practice they call surge capacity.

The hospitals also say they are prepared to deal with patients – both with and without COVID19.

You can read their statements below:

Gulf Coast Regional Medical Center provided this statementt:

“Gulf Coast Regional Medical Center remains prepared to safely deliver high quality healthcare to all patients.  It is important to understand that reported bed capacity is based on licensed bed capacity and is a fluctuating figure that routinely changes through the course of the day as patients are admitted and discharged.  Like many hospitals, we routinely operate at high capacity rates and have surge plans in place that allow for expanding our capacity beyond the licensed bed number.

Over the last few weeks, the majority of our ICU patients have been admitted for health concerns unrelated to COVID-19. While we have the bed capacity, staffing, supplies and equipment we need at this time, we continue to plan by accessing the resources, support and best practices across our HCA Healthcare family. This helps ensure we remain able to meet the needs of the communities we serve as the situation continues to evolve, including accessing additional ventilators or adding bed capacity to certain areas of our hospital if the need arises.

Gulf Coast Regional Medical Center has prepared for months to respond to impacts of COVID-19, and we continue to strictly implement guidelines established by the CDC.  Additionally, we work closely with our federal, state and local partners to stay up-to-date on the latest information and guidance. We have implemented several measures to safely and effectively care for patients experiencing both COVID and non-COVID health concerns. Our focus on enhanced safety precautions, such as universal masking, help us to ensure the protection of our patients, colleagues and visitors.”

We reached out to Ascension Sacred Heart Bay and they sent us this:

“The ICU capacity at Ascension Sacred Heart Bay fluctuates daily and the ICU often operates near capacity. This is due in part to the hospital’s role as the area’s only Trauma Center and because the hospital cares for patients requiring complex surgeries such as open heart surgery. 

We are currently able to manage our ICU capacity, but if we do reach a point where we have a sustained surge of patients requiring intensive care, we have a surge plan that allows the hospital to expand our ICU capacity and overall bed capacity.

Our hospital is fortunate to have a separate 18-bed unit for COVID-19 patients that is staffed as needed. It provides care for all levels of patients who have tested positive for COVID-19 or they are suspected of having COVID-19. These numbers are not included in the numbers published by the state Agency for Health Care Administration because the bed staffing is variable and the unit is only open to COVID 19 patients or those under investigation.

We continue to follow the guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and our care team stands ready to meet the needs of the community during the coronavirus pandemic. Our hospital has implemented strict safety precautions to protect our patients and staff who receive within our hospital and the emergency department. We remain in close contact with local and state public health agencies, public officials and other area hospitals.”

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