Coronavirus: ICUs filling up fast in Miami-Dade, Broward hospitals

Mobile field hospitals not an option during hurricane season, according to operations center

MIAMI BEACH, Fla. – More critically ill patients with symptoms of COVID-19 are being diagnosed in Miami-Dade and Broward Counties than the number of intensive care beds left to treat them. Now hospitals are being stretched to the limit.

As of Wednesday, 11 facilities in Miami-Dade County are either at capacity or within one bed of “surging out,” while four hospitals in Broward are at the critical level.

Jackson Memorial Hospital is down to 26 beds in its intensive care unit. That’s just about 11 percent of its capacity.

Aventura Hospital reports that it only has 8 beds left in its intensive care unit. But the situation in Broward County is more dire. Florida Medical Center and Broward Memorial West are down to 3, while Plantation General has no more room in its intensive care wing.

State records show only 50 beds total are available in Broward County. That’s 10.8 percent of its capacity.

In Miami-Dade, 170 beds are available, which is 17.14 percent of its capacity. Statewide, bed space is at 14.77 percent.

In spite of this, medical professionals are urging the sick to not stay away. “If you have the symptoms don’t put it off because a delay in treatment or a delay in diagnosis could lead to a worse outcome,” Dr. Allan Stewart, HCA East Florida, Miami Dade said.

Dr. Nima Kabir of Larkin Community Hospital said what is leading to the surge is that some of the patients that come in are OK and then all of a sudden, they decline “out of nowhere.”

Dr. Safiya Lyn-Lassiter is one of the medical professionals who said she is navigating an entirely different landscape than she’s used to.

“I’ve never been in the position where I’ve had to change my strategy from week to week. This virus has been an anomaly. We haven’t been able to quite grasp and tackle anything consistent over the last three months. All we know is what has allowed our population to do best and that is to wear our mask,” Lyn-Lassiter said.

Nurses from across the state are on their way to Jackson Memorial Hospital to help with staffing needs at that hospital.

While bed space may be tight, an outdoor field hospital set up, which was previously set up at Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport has since been taken down, the lot is vacant and there are no plans to rebuild it.

The Florida State Emergency Operations Center said that setting up mobile field hospitals to take some of the strain from the ICUs is not an option right now because of the possibility of Florida’s bad weather during hurricane season.

“At this time, mobile field hospitals consisting of tents may not be the best resource to deploy during hurricane season. Instead, our primary support strategy, if needed, is to surge staff into existing facilities – opening up additional capacity in those hospitals.”

The Miami Beach Convention Center stands ready to shift into a temporary field hospital with 450 unused beds and equipment inside the facility.


About the Authors:

Terrell Forney joined Local 10 News in October 2005 as a general assignment reporter. He was born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio, but a desire to escape the harsh winters of the north brought him to South Florida.

Michelle F. Solomon is the podcast producer/reporter/host of Local 10's original, true-crime podcast The Florida Files and a digital journalist for Local