BELLE GLADE, Fla. — The surge of COVID-19 cases in Florida continues to put a major strain on hospitals and bed space across the state.
Officials said Monday that the 12-bed intensive care unit at Lakeside Medical Center in Belle Glade is currently full due to an increase in patients battling the coronavirus.
SPECIAL COVERAGE: Coronavirus
There was no availability for patients to be transferred to Palm Beach County hospitals this past weekend, Health Care District of Palm Beach County Spokeswoman Robin Kish said.
"For nearly a week, Lakeside Medical Center has been unable to transfer COVID-19 positive patients in need to other intensive care units in Palm Beach County," Kish said.
Calling the situation "dire," Kish said the scarcity of beds across Florida is hampering the situation.
The Health Care District said the availability of ICU beds in Palm Beach County for COVID-19 transfers changes by the hour.
Palm Beach County Commissioner Melissa McKinlay has been tweeting about the hospital's ICU capacity problems, confirming that area hospitals are having problems finding room for patients.
Update: Our single rural hospital in Belle Glade called ALL 13 hospitals in Palm Beach County & not a single one could take Lakeside’s COVID patients.— Melissa McKinlay (@VoteMcKinlay) August 15, 2021
Not. A. Single. One.@GovRonDeSantis we have an emergency. Time to call it. @pbcgov @flcounties #COVID19 #help #imissjared https://t.co/Biq60Zkafs
The commissioner, who represents the region where the Lakeside Medical Center is located, said she was even calling hospitals out of state in search of help.
"The Health Care District has informed me they are now making calls not only to local hospitals again, to state hospitals, but they are now calling out-of-state hospitals, trying to find someplace for these patients to seek the level of care that they need," McKinlay said Monday. "That is an emergency that needs immediate attention. If declaring a local state of emergency can get the state to finally take some action, or if it opens up the door for us for federal funding and federal assistance to try to handle this situation, I made the request that we look into it."
McKinlay said she is worried that the patients in need won't survive their battle with the virus.
"I've got five patients in need of intensive care unit level of care, ventilators, intubation, one-to-one staffing requirements for nurse to patient, that can't access that care," McKinlay said. "What is my concern? That we have five families that end up burying their loved ones because no hospital could care for them. That's my concern."
Despite the issues, Kish said Lakeside Medical Center's emergency room continues to be open and is still accepting other patients.
"Lakeside Medical Center is appealing to local hospitals for more support as the number of COVID-19 patients continues to spike," Kish said.
Kish said 91 percent of the 34 COVID-19 positive patients who are hospitalized at Lakeside Medical Center were not vaccinated. The average age of the hospitalized COVID-19 patients is 58 years old.
The latest statistics from the Department of Health and Human Services show that 83.9 percent of inpatient beds are currently in use in Florida.
The Health Care District of Palm Beach County said it continues to offer free, walk-up vaccines to anyone over 12 years and older throughout the Glades at multiple locations.