May 29, 2024

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Flagstaff Medical Center encourages holiday precautions, capacity up slightly | Local

4 min read

After approaching its capacity Tuesday, Flagstaff Medical Center has more of its beds available for patients.

Reaching capacity is not a current concern, according to chief administrator Josh Tinkle, though COVID-19 transmission during the holiday season might lead to an increase in hospitalizations.

In its online update Tuesday, Northern Arizona Healthcare reported that 40 of FMC’s critical care beds were full, as were 229 of its 268 total licensed beds. The number of occupied beds was lower Wednesday, with 224 licensed beds and 37 critical care beds full.

COVID patients had risen to 43 on Tuesday, up from 39 reported Monday.

Tinkle said the hospital was not currently at what it would consider high capacity, but that there was some concern about an increase due to COVID transmission during holiday travel.

FMC’s capacity is based on both physical and staffing limitations, he said. These are monitored on a regular basis and used to make adjustments to instances such as elective surgeries to ensure FMC remains below its capacity.

“We try to predict what [cases are] going to be needed to be transferred from outlying facilities, what’s going to happen in our emergency department, and plan our surgeries accordingly to make sure we maintain adequate bed capacity,” Tinkle said.

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Physical capacity refers to the total number of beds in the hospital. Actual capacity might be lower than that number, however, based on the number of caregivers available and the type of care patients need. Caring for an ICU patient might require additional nurses and patient care technicians, for example.

It’s known as staffing capacity, which Tinkle said “can change multiple times a day.”

The range at which FMC would need to be concerned about capacity can then vary, Tinkle said.

An administrative coordinator monitors bed capacity and staffing, using that data to determine whether to take measures like pausing elective surgeries.

With increasing COVID metrics in Coconino County, Tinkle said FMC was expecting to see an increased level of hospital admissions.

“We’re anticipating as people gather over the holiday that there will likely be an increased level of COVID-positive admissions levels to the hospital,” he said. “We’re making plans for that and we have in place over the last several weeks.”

COVID patients currently take up 20{b574a629d83ad7698d9c0ca2d3a10ad895e8e51aa97c347fc42e9508f0e4325d} of NAH’s total bed capacity (meaning in both the Verde Valley Medical Center and FMC), Tinkle said, about 60 beds.

Determined to reclaim Thanksgiving traditions that were put on pause last year by the pandemic, millions of Americans are loading up their cars or piling onto planes to gather again with friends and family.SEE MORE: U.S. Airports Crowded As Holiday Travel ReboundsThe number of air travelers this week is expected to approach or even exceed pre-pandemic levels, and auto club AAA predicts that 48.3 million people will travel at least 50 miles from home over the holiday period, an increase of nearly 4 million over last year despite sharply higher gasoline prices.Many feel emboldened by the fact that nearly 200 million Americans are now fully vaccinated. But it also means brushing aside concerns about a resurgent virus at a time when the U.S. is now averaging nearly 100,000 new infections a day and hospitals in Michigan, Minnesota, Colorado and Arizona are seeing alarming increases in patients.More than 2.2 million travelers streamed through airport checkpoints last Friday, the busiest day since the pandemic devastated travel early last year. From Friday through Tuesday, the number of people flying in the U.S. was more than double the same days last year and less than 9{b574a629d83ad7698d9c0ca2d3a10ad895e8e51aa97c347fc42e9508f0e4325d} lower than the same days in 2019.American, Southwest, Delta and United have all been hiring lately, which gives the airlines and industry observers hope that flights will stay on track this week.The airlines have little margin for error right now.  American expected to fill more than 90{b574a629d83ad7698d9c0ca2d3a10ad895e8e51aa97c347fc42e9508f0e4325d} of its seats with paying customers on Tuesday.  That’s a throwback to holiday travel before the pandemic.Additional reporting by The Associated Press.

“That’s a lot of capacity, really, when you think about it, so that is a major concern of ours,” he said, adding that he encouraged mitigation measures, especially vaccines and booster doses.

“If you have a cold or you have any COVID-like symptoms, Iknow it’s the holidays, you need to be with your family, but if your exhibiting those symptoms or anyone there is, please stay home, socially distance, mask — all of that stuff to help stop the spread,” he said.

Full COVID metrics for Coconino County will not be released until Monday.

Northern Arizona University’s Wednesday update showed a slight increase in percent positivity. Fewer tests were conducted on campus locations this week (2863) and 6.5{b574a629d83ad7698d9c0ca2d3a10ad895e8e51aa97c347fc42e9508f0e4325d} had positive results. Most positive results were of individuals not affiliated with the university (105 compared to 82 affiliated cases).

The county reported 543 new cases for the week ending Nov. 13.

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