Multiple Banner hospitals implement diversions to handle patient influx

Dec 29, 2020, 4:00 PM | Updated: 5:22 pm
(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)...
(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

PHOENIX – Arizona’s largest hospital system’s said multiple Phoenix-area hospitals have gone on diversion in an effort to handle an influx of patients, Banner Health announced in a press release Tuesday.

Diversion means hospitals are closed to emergency transports and hospital transfers in an effort to work through a backlog of patients, but facilities are still open to walk-in patients seeking emergency care.

On Monday, 10 hospitals were actively diverting patients while six were on diversion as of Tuesday morning. Hospitals may go on and off diversion within hours if they are able to free up enough capacity, according to the release.

Banner said it’s not uncommon for hospitals to implement diversions around this time of year; however it is highly uncommon for so many hospitals to be diverting patients at the same time.

Will Humble, executive director for the Arizona Public Health Association, said the announcement of more hospitals implementing diversion is not surprising given the rising number of coronavirus cases in the state.

“This is what everyone has been predicting is going to happen for a long time now,” Humble told KTAR News 92.3 FM.

Humble, who was formerly the director of the Arizona Department of Health Services, explained that diversion is part of the crisis standards of care to ensure patients receive as high of a level of care as possible.

“Hospitals are doing everything they possibly can to manage the patients that they do have with as high level of care as they possibly can and one strategy to keep that high level of care is to bring down the number of patients,” Humble said.

On Tuesday, Arizona health officials reported 2,799 new coronavirus cases and 171 additional deaths, bringing the state’s documented totals for the pandemic to 507,222 infections and 8,640 fatalities.

Meanwhile, multiple COVID-19 metrics in the state have been at or near pandemic highs.

The number of COVID-19 patients in the state’s ICU beds increased to 1,053 on Monday, the fifth consecutive day with a record high.

Statewide, suspected or confirmed COVID-19 patients took up 53% of all inpatient beds and 59% of all ICU beds, both records.

Humble noted that this situation is something that researchers have been sounding the alarm about for weeks.

In November, researchers from the COVID Modeling team at the University of Arizona previously urged Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey to implement a three week shut down to curb the spread of coronavirus and avoid a situation like hospitals are seeing now.

However, Ducey has repeatedly balked at the idea of implementing a statewide mask mandate or implementing additional measures to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

“They were unwilling to make those decisions and as a result we’re in the situation that we’re in,” Humble said.

“This is not fate. Policy interventions could have played a much bigger role in preventing what we’re seeing today and what we’ll continue to see in the coming weeks.”

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Multiple Banner hospitals implement diversions to handle patient influx