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Coronavirus: Miami hospitals await help on the way to deal with surge

South Florida hospitals need more beds, more staff as COVID-19 cases continue to rise.
South Florida hospitals need more beds, more staff as COVID-19 cases continue to rise.

MIAMI, Fla. – South Florida hospitals are stretched thin. As coronavirus cases continue to spike, there's a high demand for everything from hospital bed space to more staff.

On Tuesday, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis addressed the crisis of what’s happening in this part of the state.

“Obviously, they’ve had the most significant epidemic,” DeSantis said. “You know, their census, overall, has been relatively stable ... They just have a higher percentage that are COVID-19, so (hospitals) make changes to make sure they have the capacity.”

At Jackson Memorial in Miami, the spike in patients has led executives to call in extra hospital help including the addition of some 25 respiratory therapists and 125 nurses. And there's even more help on the way.

"We're converting as we need to, hence the need for additional staff," Carol Biggs, chief nursing officer, Jackson Memorial Health.

While workers have been converting regular rooms over to ICU beds — the number of patients in need continues to climb — putting the hospital near capacity.

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

It comes as the construction continues at the hospital for more than 50 new ICU rooms, a project that was started before the pandemic.

The surge in patients is putting workers at risk, too.

At Jackson Memorial, of the 1,300 employees tested this month — nearly a quarter came back positive.

It’s a similar situation at Baptist Health — where some workers have been forced to go beyond their normal duties — caring for patients who are unable to see their families.

"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," Rachel Evers, nurse, Baptist Health South Florida.

Despite the grim numbers, the governor seemed to strike an optimistic tone saying he believes Florida has the capacity to handle the demand.

On the statewide level, DeSantis said we have about 20 percent of our ICU beds available. Here in Miami-Dade County, it is currently at 15 percent.

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

About the Author:

Trent Kelly is an award-winning multimedia journalist who joined the Local 10 News team in June 2018. Trent is no stranger to Florida. Born in Tampa, he attended the University of Florida in Gainesville, where he graduated with honors from the UF College of Journalism and Communications.