Not every NC hospital responds every day to DHHS survey of open beds

North Carolina news

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Not all hospitals in North Carolina are telling the state Department of Health and Human Services every day how many beds are open.

DHHS has published a daily count of the empty beds in the state’s hospitals, tallying all beds and those in intensive care units, on its coronavirus information website starting March 27.

But that page also includes a disclaimer that only a certain percentage of hospitals across the state reported their totals for that day – 87 percent on Friday, after that number was 88 percent in each of the previous two days.

A major concern as the coronavirus crisis unfolded was that hospitals would be overrun by patients seeking treatment for the highly infectious virus.

Gov. Roy Cooper has said that has not yet happened, and the numbers bear that out. A CBS 17 News analysis of those numbers found that at least 5,726 total beds or 635 ICU beds have been vacant every day since the DHHS started releasing the occupancy statistics.

Researchers at the University of Washington studying the spread of COVID-19 have projected that North Carolina’s peak date of resource use – for beds and ventilators – would come Friday.

DHHS spokeswoman Kelly Haight did not immediately respond to an email from CBS 17 News on Friday asking which hospitals are not reporting.

All hospitals in the state are asked to complete an online survey each day before 11 a.m., UNC Health spokesman Alan Wolf said. Those figures are then used by DHHS to compile its bed count. Wolf said UNC Health completes the survey every day.

The overall hospital bed vacancies have ranged between a low of 5,726 on March 29 to a high of 8,296 on April 7, according to the DHHS numbers. The low in open ICU beds was 635 on April 2 with a max of 996 five days later.

There were 7,187 total beds and 915 intensive care beds open Friday, the DHHS website reported.

DHHS’ most recent update indicated there are 18,941 total beds and 3,223 intensive care beds in the state, but those numbers only account for the hospitals that responded to the survey that particular day. The American Hospital Directory says there are 23,194 total beds in the state’s 108 hospitals.

Since the DHHS began releasing those figures last month, the high in patients hospitalized with COVID-19 was 452 on Thursday.

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