Available ICU beds in Arkansas drop to 25, lowest levels since start of pandemic

Coronavirus

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – The number of available ICU beds in Arkansas has hit an all-time low as hospitals see an influx of COVID patients.

Right now, there are only 25 beds available – the lowest it’s been since the start of the pandemic. In total, Arkansas has just under 1,200 ICU beds across the state.

Arkansas Surgeon General Dr. Greg Bledsoe has seen this worrisome trend firsthand while working in an emergency room during the peak of the pandemic.

“If you show up at the emergency department, we take care of you,” Bledsoe said, “but we can’t make beds…it worries me””

He says he’s worried that the worst is yet to come, saying, “I have no confidence that this has peaked yet.”

ICU openings have been a problem since spring. Dr. Jose Romero with the Arkansas Department of Health said Tuesday that ICU admissions have increased significantly between April and July, up by almost 275%.

But with cases on the rise and vaccination rates slowing, Bledsoe worries hospitals will have to make hard choices – including delaying treatment and pushing back elective surgeries.

If ICU beds reach zero, he says, patients may even have to be sent out of state to be treated.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson explained in his latest COVID update that he hopes it doesn’t come to that.

“We are working with the hospitals for a joint approach as we did in the height of the winter,” Hutchinson said, “and we’ll have more to report on that in coming days.”  

Dr. Bledsoe’s advice to Arkansans is to take the virus seriously in order to help out hospitals and healthcare workers.

“This isn’t fake news, this isn’t a political stunt, what’s happening is real,” Bledsoe stressed.

He also recommends getting vaccinated, as vaccines limit the chances of a patient being hospitalized.

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