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Palm Beach County hospital bed shortage 'very concerning' during COVID-19 pandemic, leaders say

14 local hospitals have total deficit of 210 beds, including 14 ICU beds
Palm Beach County Mayor Dave Kerner speaks at a news conference on Sept. 2, 2021.jpg
Posted at 10:02 AM, Sep 02, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-02 21:40:17-04

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Calling it a "very concerning" sign, Palm Beach County leaders on Thursday said local hospitals are dealing with a serious shortage of beds and are feeling the pressure of burnout among medical staff.

Speaking at a news conference in West Palm Beach, Mayor Dave Kerner said that during non-COVID, normal operations, all 14 hospitals in Palm Beach County have a total capacity of 2,823 beds.

However, the coronavirus pandemic has forced local hospitals to upsurge and upstaff to 3,033 beds, which means there's a deficit of 210 total beds throughout the county.

"That's very concerning that we have hospitals that are in surge mode in terms of capacity," Kerner said. "They are adding beds. They have the ability to do that. They have the ability to up staff. But we are exceeding the normal footprint of beds in our hospital system."

In terms of ICU beds, Palm Beach County hospitals normally have 333 beds available, but have upsurged to 347 because of COVID-19 admissions. There are currently 31 pediatric ICU beds in use out of 42 total beds available.

"They are putting [additional beds] in places that they normally would not," said County Administrator Verdenia Baker. "Surgical centers or areas, and other appropriate areas that can handle ventilators and all the other equipment that would go with taking care of COVID patients."


Palm Beach County leaders give update on COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations

Health officials said there are currently 116 "bed holds" in Palm Beach County hospitals, meaning patients who are in the emergency ward waiting for a bed.

"The hospitals are very much full," Kerner said. "From my perspective, there are chronic staffing issues with health care professionals."

Since local hospitals began reporting these metrics in late August as required under Palm Beach County's current state of emergency, there have been 754 adult COVID-19 hospital admissions and 20 pediatric admissions.

564 of those patients have been unvaccinated or not fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, while 79 have been fully vaccinated.

Palm Beach County health director Dr. Alina Alonso said vaccinations in the county have increased 11% since July, mainly due to a surge in 12-to-19-year-olds getting inoculated.

"The parents are taking their kids for vaccinations," Alonso said.

Alonso added she expects peaks and valleys in the number of new COVID-19 cases over the coming months, then a spike during the holidays.

The health director on Thursday threw her support behind monoclonal antibody treatments, which are lab-made proteins that help your immune system fight off viruses. Alonso said 2,087 people have received the treatments at the West Gate Park and Recreation Center in West Palm Beach.

"It's life-saving because it will help you get over the infection quickly by having those antibodies in your body," Alonso said. "It will stop you, perhaps, from having to go to the hospital."

For more information about where to find monoclonal antibody treatments in Florida, click here.

Palm Beach County officials on Thursday made one of their most passionate pleas yet for the public to get vaccinated, saying it will protect children under 12 who are unable to receive the shot.

"We have children in ICU pediatrics. Children. And we all have the answer in our hands," said Commissioner Maria Sachs. "All we have to do is get educated and get vaccinated. That's all."

To see an interactive map of COVID-19 vaccination sites in Palm Beach County, click here. For a map of coronavirus testing sites in the county, click here.