Memphis-area hospitals act on facility surge plans as hospitalizations increase

Memphis-area hospitals act on facility surge plans as hospitalizations increase

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - The Shelby County Health Department started Friday releasing data about hospital system capacity. The report includes facilities in Shelby, Tipton, and Lauderdale counties in Tennessee, as well as facilities in Crittenden County, Arkansas and Desoto County, Mississippi.

“Our hospitals are busier than they were a month or so ago, but are reporting the ability to manage the cases that are coming in,” said Alisa Haushalter, Shelby County Health Department Director.

The statistics show 90 percent utilization of acute care beds, with 9 percent of those take up by COVID patients. Of ICU beds, 87 percent are in use, with 26 percent of those people COVID-positive.

“We look at our surge plan and capacity probably every four hours every single day,” said Catherine Luchsinger, Chief Nursing Officer at Baptist - Memphis.

Luchsinger said Friday has been a good day, with discharges freeing up bed space inside the hospital on Walnut Grove Road. But staff there prepared to open eight surge beds Thursday night, after a week that had them worried about space.

“Probably Monday through Thursday until about 8 o’clock last night, we were very concerned,” she said, “We are anticipating 10 to 14 days after the fourth of July that we will all be spiking.”

The decision to open the 400-bed Alternative Care Facility on Union Avenue will come from the state of Tennessee.

A spokesperson for the state said the site remains on standby, and “the state is first committed to assisting hospitals with the implementation of their surge planning.”

“We have a couple of other areas that we could open up. Our biggest struggle would be to deploy the right people and resources, human resources, to those areas to care for those patients,” said Luchsinger.

Luchsinger said for Baptist Memphis that means adding 50 surge beds to their 550 existing staffed beds. She said Baptist is already utilizing their hospital float pool as well as staffing agencies to provide additional nurses in ICU and step down units.

“We are very grateful to have those nurses to help us and their expertise to take care of these very sick patients,” she said.

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