Banner Health Activates Surge Plans, Brings In Contract Nurses As ICU Beds Quickly Fill Up

Published: Friday, June 26, 2020 - 4:20pm
Updated: Monday, June 29, 2020 - 7:25am

Nearly 90% of Arizona's ICU beds are full, and 86% of all hospital beds are occupied. While hospitals aren’t full yet, the COVID-19 trends indicate they could be in the next few weeks.

Banner Health’s chief clinical officer, Marjorie Bessel, confirmed that several of its hospitals, including its Desert Medical Center in Mesa, are activating surge plans to increase bed capacity.

“We are absolutely experiencing a surge of COVID-19 patients that are coming in for care, and we are starting to get full," Bessel said in a pre-recorded statement. "We do have plans however to continue to increase our capacity so we can meet the demand from our communities and the people that we serve there.”

Hospitals in Arizona have the ability to add more beds relatively easily. The difficulty arises in finding enough nurses with those certifications to care for a surge in patients.

ICU nurses are usually responsible for two patients during their shifts — any more, and the quality of care can decline significantly. The nurses require advanced training and certifications that many simply don’t have. 

“So we have been a little bit short on our staff, but have been able to contract with external agencies that are actually bringing nurses and other types of providers into our Banner Health system," Bessel said. "They have ICU experience; they have PCU experience. Some of them have even worked in New York. So we're augmenting our staff, and we have some more coming next week, as well, to assist us."

Currently, Banner says it expects at least 200 nurses to arrive within the next two weeks.

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