Arkansas governor: ICU bed space ‘very, very tight’ heading into holiday weekend


MEMPHIS, Tenn. — COVID-19 and the Delta variant are putting a new strain on hospital care, especially in Arkansas, where there are few ICU beds available for patients, and many of them are now needing ventilators.

It’s a major concern for state and health leaders going into the Labor Day weekend.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson says this reflects the seriousness of the Delta variant facing patients and hospital personnel.

“While we have significant capacity in Arkansas, our ICU bed space is very, very tight,” Hutchinson said.

Another challenge is the shortage of nurses in Arkansas hospitals. Troy Wells, the CEO of Baptist Health in Arkansas, says some help is on the way.

 “We continue to work hard on bringing in staffing from out of the state from nurses coming off other contracts that can come to Arkansas,” Wells said. “Respiratory therapy and RNs are the biggest resource we need to make those ICU beds work.”

Within the last seven days, younger patients have been hit the most often with COVID-19, with a total of more than 4,400 cases of children 17 and under getting COVID-19 as schools around the state enter another week of class.

“When we have more cases, we are going to have more individuals developing more severe disease and those are the ones that will be taxing our critical care structure for children,” said Dr. Jose Romero, Arkansas state health secretary.

The state is also issuing a warning going into the Labor Day holiday weekend for people to get vaccinated and wear a mask when in large gatherings such as football games.                   

“We’re going into the holiday weekend. Every holiday weekend we have seen since the beginning of the pandemic, we’ve seen a surge in the number of cases. So, we are concerned,” Romero said.

Baptist Health in Arkansas hopes to have 64 additional ICU beds online by September.

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