FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – The signs are there that we could be just a few weeks away from suffering another healthcare crisis. Most emergency rooms in South Florida are already feeling the impact of a surge in coronavirus patients.
With COVID-19 cases rising, the space in intensive care units is dropping, and staffing is becoming a concern, too.
“I think there were a couple times when we were at max capacity as a hospital for just admitting patients, and right now we have a lot of patients on the floors, said Dr. Nima Kabir of Larkin Community Hospital.
Every hospital in South Florida with an emergency room appears to have had its fair share of sick patients hit with the novel coronavirus. And bed space— especially in intensive care units — is shrinking.
As of Tuesday, state records showed that only 72 ICU beds remained open in Broward County, just under 15 percent of the capacity.
In Miami-Dade, 155 ICU beds were left, or 16 percent.
Statewide, 16 percent of ICU beds remained available.
Some of the major hospitals in the area believe they could be at capacity by the end of the month. That’s why so much effort is being placed on prevention.
Gov. Ron DeSantis announced Tuesday that he’s sending 100 nurses on contract with the state to Jackson Memorial Hospital to deal with the rising number of patients and to fill the gap on staffing needs.
“I think that this will be something very, very helpful for Jackson,” he said.
Also on Tuesday, Memorial Healthcare System announced that it will halt elective, non-urgent and non-emergency procedures as of Wednesday. Emergency surgeries and outpatient diagnostic procedures will continue.
“Memorial Healthcare System is committed to taking care of its community as it monitors the progression of the pandemic in South Florida and continues to manage COVID-19 patients and patients with other non-COVID medical needs,” the system said in a statement. “Patients should contact their physician to check on the status of their previously scheduled surgery or procedure.”
Dr. Safiya Lyn-Lassiter, founder of Ask Doctor Lyn and an emergency medicine physician practicing in South Florida, says not only are COVID-19 patients younger in recent weeks, but the most common symptoms they’re displaying seem to be changing.
“It may not be a spike in your temperature greater than 100.4, which is technically a fever,” she said. “I would say that mild cough and fatigue is more prevalent.”
Lyn-Lassiter said that while fever may not be present for a patient initially, that symptom can still come later. Like many of the other doctors we’ve spoken to, she stresses taking the proper prevention steps to avoid the virus.