As hospitalizations set new record, Baptist adds hospital beds; UAMS report says state entering ‘difficult time’

by Michael Tilley ([email protected]) 325 views 

Baptist Health CEO Troy Wells on Tuesday (Dec. 22) discusses the hospital’s work to add new beds in Little Rock and Van Buren.

With hospitalizations reaching a new record of 1,103 in Tuesday’s (Dec. 22) Arkansas Department of Health report, Gov. Asa Hutchinson said 124 more hospital beds will be added in Little Rock and Van Buren through a partnership with Little Rock-based Baptist Health.

Baptist Health CEO Troy Wells said during Gov. Hutchinson’s Tuesday press conference the 124 beds will be added at existing facilities in Little Rock and Van Buren because they are the “easiest means for scaling all the ancillary services and other clinical services” needed to support a patient in each bed. There will be 50 beds added in Little Rock and 74 beds in Van Buren, to include 8 ICU beds. He also said Baptist is “actively recruiting” critical care nurses and other healthcare workers to staff the expansion.

Wells said the Little Rock beds should be available in 4-5 weeks, and 6-8 weeks in Van Buren. Gov. Hutchinson said adding the space will cost an estimated $7.4 million, with 80% of that cost to be covered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). He also said Baptist is adding 30 ICU beds in Little Rock that are separate from the expansion being funded by FEMA.

Gov. Hutchinson said the state is in a “better-than-expected position right now” with bed availability, but said recent trends demand that new beds be ready.

“Our existing capacity has been able to manage the current caseload. But, we don’t know, with 25 more (hospitalizations) today, we don’t what the rest of December is going to be like. We don’t know what January is going to be like, because we don’t know what Christmas is going to be like,” Gov. Hutchinson said, adding that he is concerned there will be another spike in COVID cases after Christmas like there was after Thanksgiving. “It is my hope that we will build this out, and we will not have to utilize those beds for COVID patients. But it is prudent upon me as governor to make sure we have that adequate space if the need arises.”

Arkansas Secretary of Health Dr. Jose Romero also said Tuesday that 51% of vaccines received last week have been administered, and urged health care workers to receive the vaccine. He also said the state has a large supply of monoclonal antibody treatments and plans to use those to help reduce hospital admissions.

The University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences on Tuesday updated its COVID modeling, predicting the pandemic in Arkansas will peak in April 2021. The report also included the dire estimate that the “increase in the number of cases in the next two weeks will equal the number of cases in the state between March 11 and July 4.”

In a bit of good news, and tied to the April pandemic peak prediction, the updated modeling shows a decline in the long-term impact of COVID in Arkansas. Following are two long-term estimates and information from the previous modeling.

• Mean-case estimates
April 12 (previously March 24)
Active cases: 27,868 (previously 40,348)
Hospitalizations: 1,839 (previously 2,663)
ICU beds: 643 (previously 932)
Ventilators: 225 (previously 326)

• Worst-case estimates
April 12 (previously March 23)
Active cases: 54,818 (previously 70,037)
Hospitalizations: 3,617 (previously 4,622)
ICU beds: 1,265 (previously 1,618)
Ventilators: 442 (previously 566)

Following are other notes from the UAMS report.
• “As a consequence of more rapid viral spread, the state’s healthcare system will be challenged dealing with the consequences of these numbers – from treating people who will require intensive medical care to mobilizing the public to continue to practice mitigation behaviors. And, until the vaccines are distributed, there is no indication the trends we are now seeing are likely to change.”

• “Patients with COVID-19 needing hospitalization from these (rural) areas of the state may wait longer before presenting and, when they do present, may have far more advanced disease. This suggests we should expect an increase in length of hospital stays and the numbers of patients requiring intensive care and ventilation.”

• “(A)ctual deaths have outpaced the model, and we are unable to accurately forecast the numbers for the next two weeks. The recent large increases in cases and hospitalizations are likely to be reflected as higher death rates in upcoming forecasts, as deaths lag both cases and hospitalizations. As the slope of the 15-day forecast suggests, the number of deaths will increase at a high rate in the next two weeks over Christmas and New Year’s.”

New known COVID-19 cases, active cases, tests
• 172,782 known cumulative PCR cases, with 1,095 new community cases and 15 reported cases in correctional facilities
• 32,266 probable cases, up from 31,435 on Monday
• There are 16,173 active cases, down from 16,589 on Monday
• There were 7,169 test results provided in the previous 24 hours.
• There were 4,010 antigen tests in the previous 24 hours.

• 2,910, up 25
• 428 probable COVID-related deaths, up 18

1,103, up 25

173, down 1

Recovered cases

The top five counties with new known cases reported Tuesday were: Pulaski (288), Washington (168), Benton (153), Saline (81), and White (75). The counties accounted for 69.8% of the 1,095 new community cases.

As of Tuesday at 1 p.m., there were 18,101,653 U.S. cases and 320,864 deaths. Globally, there were 77,708,508 cases and 1,710,128 deaths.

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