What is an ICU bed shortage? Nurses explain logistics, say it's more than just a bed

ByCornell W. Barnard KGO logo
Saturday, December 5, 2020
Bay Area nurses explain logistics behind ICU bed shortage
As coronavirus cases continue to surge, nurses in Sonoma County are explaining why there's an ICU bed shortage, and what that really means.

SONOMA COUNTY, Calif. (KGO) -- Sonoma County is not part of the new stay at home order, but concern is growing over the shortage of ICU hospital beds in the county.

Nurses say intensive care means a lot more than a bed, it means a team of skilled staff, some who are reaching their limits.

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"Nurses have been in this fight for 11 months now," said Deborah Burger.

Burger has been part of that coronavirus fight as a registered nurse in Santa Rosa, where she's worked since 1985.

She's president of National Nurses United.

With new COVID-19 cases still surging locally and around the country, she's worried about those who may need hospitalization.

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To curb the spread of COVID-19, San Francisco is joining several other Bay Area jurisdictions in implementing a stay-at-home order beginning Sunday.

"Currently, there are a shortage of beds in Sonoma County. We are concerned," Burger added.

The State's Public Health Department says there are currently 173 hospital beds available countywide, 76 ventilators and with a total 82 ICU beds, only four are available.

"You need to know what ICU beds are," Burger said.

Burger says it's not just a bed. Intensive care means highly trained staff, who are constantly observing and monitoring ill patients who may need extra care.

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"Just the labor alone is what makes it an ICU, you can't get that kind of care on a regular surgical floor," she said.

Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital reports it has room to accommodate additional patients, if needed.

Sonoma County Health Officer Dr. Sundari Mase disputes ICU numbers from the state.

"Currently, numbers show we have less than three percent capacity, we don't believe this represents a true picture in our ability to handle new COVID cases at hospitals," Mase said.

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