ST. GEORGE — The intensive care unit at Dixie Regional Medical Center nearly reached capacity this week, and is still in danger of doing so, because of a continued upsurge in COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations in the region.
The diminishing ability for the largest hospital in the region to be able to accommodate patients has the chief doctor at DRMC imploring everyone in Southern Utah to wear masks and practice social distancing.
Dr. Patrick Carroll, medical director of Dixie Regional, said Friday that the hospital’s ICU was moments away from exceeding its capacity earlier in the week. The hospital has 24 intensive care unit beds but has a contingency to create a temporary “surge” ICU that may be able to accommodate up to 89 ICU beds. But with most COVID-19 patients needing an average of 30 days in the ICU, even that surge capacity may fill quickly.
“We have more ICU patients with COVID than we’ve ever had. A third of ICU patients are in there because of COVID in addition to the normal number of patients,” Carroll said. “We came very close this week to opening a surge ICU. We want to have that ICU bed available when you are playing on that four-wheeler and get in an accident.”
It’s not just bed space that is nearing capacity at Dixie Regional. Even if there are available beds, there may not be available staff. For example, while Carroll said the hospital remains far from running out of ventilators, it nearly ran out of the availability of those who help operate them.