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Arkansas hospitals ask for more patient beds as COVID cases climb

State leaders met on Monday to decide whether or not to add more hospital beds — a decision that will cost $50 million.

LITTLE ROCK, Arkansas — COVID cases are continuing to reach record highs and our hospitals are concerned about having enough beds, not only to place our COVID-19 patients, but regular patients too.

On Monday, state leaders, a part of the American Rescue Plan Act Steering Committee, met to decide on adding more beds to hospitals... a move that will cost 50 million dollars.

The proposal passed unanimously. This will add 265 ICU and medical surge beds to share between 11 state hospitals, including Baptist Health, Conway Regional, CHI St. Vincent, and Arkansas Children's Hospital.

The Arkansas Hospital Association helped write the proposal on behalf of the hospitals. The numbers they track based on midnight patient counts has more than doubled since the start of the new year.

"There were 1,028 COVID hospitalizations. Well, if you go back just two weeks on December 27th, there were 495 COVID hospitalizations," said Jodiane Tritt, Arkansas Hospital Association Executive Vice President.

The proposal shows hospitals will use existing staff for the additional patient beds. 

With hospitals suffering staffing shortages and healthcare worker burnout already, Arkansas Nurses Association Director Susie Marks is reminding leaders to think about those on the front lines.

"Anything that we can do to offer direct support to them is much needed," said Marks.

The proposal now heads to the legislative committee where they will vote. If passed, the hospitals will then receive the additional beds.

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