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With available beds plentiful, Florida hospitals seek to resume elective surgeries


By John Haughey | The Center Square

In March, the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) projected the COVID-19 pandemic would peak in Florida on May 6, with as many as 174 people dying of the disease that day.

The original projections produced by IHME, based at the University of Washington in Seattle, warned that Florida hospitals likely would have enough beds to handle the forecast peak, but ICU bed capacities could be taxed.

IHME’s model since has been revised repeatedly. As of Wednesday, its Florida dashboard indicated the state’s COVID-19 curve peaked April 2, when 1,304 new cases were reported and 77 deaths attributed to the disease recorded.

The most recent model forecasts 1,363 Floridians could die from the disease by Aug. 4, a 71 percent decline from the original 6,766 estimate.

In response to projections by IHME and other research modelers, Gov. Ron DeSantis in March issued an executive order prohibiting hospitals from performing elective surgeries during the crisis to ensure the state’s 60,214 hospital beds would be able to handle the forecast peak.

DeSantis has since included hospital bed availability as a component of his daily COVID-19 briefings, citing frequently the state’s hospital bed capacity has “not even come close” to being stressed.

Elective surgeries generate significant revenue for hospitals and, without the income, some – including several in south Florida where the outbreak is most severe – were contemplating staff furloughs and layoffs.

On Wednesday, the state’s Agency For Health Care Administration’s (ACHA) Hospital Bed Capacity Dashboard showed 36,631 hospital beds statewide were occupied and 23,191 available, meaning 38.77 percent of the state’s hospital beds were unoccupied.

Of the state’s 6,214 adult ICU beds, 2,152 were unoccupied, meaning 34.63 percent were available, according to the ACHA.

Citing the available capacity and lower peak projection demands, the Florida Hospital Association (FHA) on Tuesday released a four-phase plan to DeSantis’ Re-Open Florida Task Force that would allow hospitals to resume elective surgeries and procedures while protecting patients and employees from COVID-19.

“Florida’s hospitals remain vigilant,” FHA President Crystal Stickle in a statement. “We are committed to ensuring the safety and wellbeing of our patients, employees and communities. This has been, and will continue to be, our top priority.”

As of Wednesday afternoon, DeSantis had not lifted the executive order but he indicated Tuesday he likely will do so soon.

“We need to do it pretty quickly, because, if we keep it up the way we are going, I think more people are going to get laid off,” he told reporters. “I think there is going to be less financial viability for some of these health care outfits, which is very important.”

FHA said its plan is based on guidelines recently released by the White House, American Enterprise Institute, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the Advisory Board Company, the American College of Surgeons, the American Society of Anesthesiologists, the Association of periOperative Registered Nurses and the American Hospital Association. Its four steps are:

1. Observe the COVID-19 “rate of occurrence in the community;”

2. Prevent transmission to patients and health care providers;

3. Establish a transparent and collaborative prioritization process to restore elective surgeries;

4. Network with all health care providers “across a continuum of care to fully restore health care services.”

COVID-19, Elective Surgeries, Florida Hospitals, The Center Square


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