Duke University Hospital, WakeMed combined for single-digit ICU beds Thursday

Coronavirus

DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) – Some hospitals in the Triangle are dealing with a shortage of ICU beds. 

According to data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, that collects information from hospitals, Duke University Hospital had only two ICU beds available on Thursday.

“Right now we’re in a bit of a crisis in making sure we have beds for those patients who present to us very ill and need our care,” Duke University Hospital’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Lisa Pickett said.

Pickett, who is also a trauma and critical care surgeon, adds that the number of beds fluctuates throughout the day.

She explained, “It’s kind of a constant movement, but at any given time, there is not more than a couple of open beds ready for the next person to come in, but it is a moving target. You may look at different times and see different numbers.”

Duke Health Officials tell CBS 17 that prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, hospitals would reach capacity limits during peak times and are prepared to accommodate the demand. 

Duke Health Officials added in a release, “This is a result of a number of factors, including summer activity, pent-up demand for care, and the recent increase in COVID cases. As a result, the emergency departments at Duke University Hospital, Duke Regional Hospital and Duke Raleigh Hospital have long wait times. We are asking patients with non-life-threatening conditions to seek care at Duke Urgent Care Clinics, primary care providers, or Duke specialty clinics as appropriate.”

As of Thursday afternoon, there were 88 people hospitalized with COVID-19 across the Duke Health System. 33 of those patients were in the ICU. Pickett said the hospital had to reschedule a few surgeries to free up beds.

“We review every day, our operating schedule, to make sure that we have bed capacity to take care of all of those patients,” Pickett said. “And for the first time today, we had to reschedule a few cases that were not urgent or emergent because we simply needed those beds to care for the patients who presented to us.”

According to DHHS data, WakeMed in Raleigh didn’t do much better on Thursday. It had just three ICU beds available.

A spokesperson for the hospital couldn’t confirm ICU capacity, but did say they are caring for 107 COVID-19 patients. Also, about half of WakeMed’s COVID-19 patients are between 30-50-years-old.

Furthermore, Pickett said getting vaccinated is the best way to protect yourself against the virus.

“This is a very difficult next wave,” she said. “Because I think everybody really thought once we climbed that mountain and got over it, and had vaccines, that we would never see a big wave like we’re seeing now. The rate of increase in infections is astronomical, it is overwhelming. And so our team here at the hospital really hasn’t had time to even recover from the last wave to process it and to work through it in their minds, as well as to rest.”

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