Coronavirus: As hospitalizations rise, Jackson Health System expecting new ICU beds and additional staff

MIAMI – Coronavirus cases and hospital bed usage in South Florida have been on the rise in recent weeks, but the amount of available intensive care unit beds is improving.

Construction on more than 50 new ICU beds at Jackson Memorial Hospital, with room to expand, was underway before the coronavirus pandemic. Now, those beds can’t get here soon enough.

“I think that we’re going to get through it,” Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said Tuesday. “I think we are on the right course. We will continue to see improvements.”

Despite the governor's optimism, Jackson Health Chief Nursing Officer Dr. Carol Biggs explained that the numbers are climbing, with more than 200 COVID-19 patients across the Jackson Health system.

“We’re nearing capacity,” she said. “A lot of these patients are on ventilators, and require, even if they’re not on vents, require respiratory treatments.”

DeSantis said earlier this week that help is on the way.

“We’ve already deployed with the Department of Emergency Management, hundreds of medical personnel,” DeSantis said. “We’ll deploy up to 1400 very soon, for those who are requesting help, and we’re going to continue to do that.”

Some of that calvary is in South Florida, with an additional 125 nurses, and 25 respiratory therapists are now at Jackson, according to its President and CEO Carlos Migoya.

In July alone, he said more than 1300 employees were tested for the virus, with nearly a quarter of them testing positive.

"This disease is very serious, and is does not have regard for age, race color, or creed," said Dr. Biggs.

At Baptist Health of South Florida, a similar scene with 831 COVID-19 patients treated Tuesday. Some now in the ICU and isolated from their families, with clinical staff now serving as much more than just a nurse or doctor.

“You try to be a sister, a mom, a granddaughter, a step-in husband, because it is heartbreaking to see these people go through it and go through it alone,” said Baptist Health Nurse Rachel Evers.

As the fight against the disease continues, the front-line workers received a little fuel for their fire on Monday from the Miami Marlins Foundation, which donated some food for the hospital staff.

In the coming days, another 75 nurses are expected to arrive, as well as 50 respiratory therapists.

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