Arizona hospitals urged to activate emergency protocols amid virus surge

Jun 9, 2020, 4:35 AM | Updated: 12:43 pm
(Getty Images/ Hannah McKay)...
(Getty Images/ Hannah McKay)
(Getty Images/ Hannah McKay)

PHOENIX — In the midst of a surge in coronavirus cases across the state, the Arizona Department of Health Services has urged hospitals to activate their emergency protocols.

In a letter sent to hospitals on Saturday, AZDHS Director Dr. Cara Christ recommended hospitals “fully activate” their emergency plans — roughly three weeks after the statewide stay-at-home order expired.

“In recent days, we’ve seen some hospitals come out with concerns related to a surge in patients,” AZDHS Assistant Director Jessica Rigler told KTAR News 92.3 FM on Monday.

“So we wanted to make sure that we provided some additional guidance to those facilities about steps that they could be taking and remind them of some of the requirements that were … recommended in the previous letter.”

The guidelines issued Saturday by AZDHS contained many of the same recommendations outlined in a previous letter the department sent to hospitals in March, such as: the activation of facility emergency protocols, enacting triage treatment processes to prevent burdening emergency rooms and maintaining strong communication with nearby health care centers.

Banner Health on Monday expressed concern regarding the recent increase in coronavirus cases and stated that the number of their COVID-19 patients requiring a ventilator had quadrupled since May 15.

In Saturday’s letter, Christ also cited an expired order from Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey — Executive Order 2020-10 — before urging facilities currently experiencing staffing shortages or inadequate bed capacity to stop conducting elective surgeries.

Ducey prohibited elective surgeries via the since-expired order — which took effect March 21 — with the intention of preserving personal protective equipment for hospitals.

He then permitted hospitals to resume elective surgeries beginning May 1 if facilities could meet certain requirements including enhanced sanitation practices, a 14-day supply of PPE and adequate screenings of patients and staff.

During a press conference on Thursday, Ducey said he believes his office and public health officials have chosen the best course of action in handling the virus outbreak.

Christ also said during the same press conference that the increase in confirmed cases was likely due to additional testing.

“It’s not unexpected especially as we are targeting more of those vulnerable higher areas and higher numbers of long-term care, higher numbers of correctional officers and prisons, so we are going to see changing numbers and we expect that,” she said.

Monday morning, AZDHS reported 789 new coronavirus cases and 3 additional deaths.

On Sunday, the number of confirmed or suspected COVID-19 patients in Arizona hospitals remained in excess of 1,200 for the fourth consecutive day.

KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Nailea Leon contributed to this report.

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Arizona hospitals urged to activate emergency protocols amid virus surge