FORT SMITH, Ark. — As the number of COVID-19 cases continues to surge in Arkansas, hospitals around the state have taken steps to improve the ICU bed situation.
According to Troy Wells, Baptist Health CEO, the hospital completed the first phase of ICU bed expansion on Wednesday, Aug. 25. With the expansion, Baptist Health created 33 new ICU beds in Arkansas and 124 medical/surgical beds.
Wells says the new ICU beds were filled within 12-24 hours after opening. He says that 70-80 medical/surgical beds are staffed and ready to use daily.
The Baptist Health Medical Center in North Little Rock opened 12 more COVID-capable ICU beds on Tuesday, Aug. 31. Wells says as of Tuesday afternoon, nine of them are still available for use.
Wells says Baptist Health is actively opening eight more ICU beds in its Fort Smith hospital and eight more in Conway.
“We haven’t stopped looking for real estate, if you will, for ICU beds,” he said.
The hospital is also continuing its efforts to bring respiratory therapists and RNs from out of state to help maintain the number of ICU beds in use.
Wells says that throughout the 11 Baptist Health hospitals across the state, 87% of the COVID-19 patients are not vaccinated against the virus.
“The patients are younger, and the patients are much sicker,” he said.
Wells says the hospitals need more critical care beds and ventilators now than they did a year ago.
“Please get your vaccine and help us bring these hospitalizations down for you and for your families,” he said.
Wells added that the neonatal ICUs have also been extremely busy as the delta variant rages through the state. He says at times, they have run out of beds due to the surge in COVID cases.
“We’ve had many pre-term babies delivered because of unvaccinated mothers,” he said.
In addition to the adult ICU bed expansion, Wells says Baptist Health is expanding the neonatal ICU unit by another eight beds to meet the new demand.
Arkansas Secretary of Health Dr. Jose Romero says the number of pediatric COVID-19 cases is rapidly increasing in the state. He says 99.3% of the virus cases in Arkansas are the delta variant.