Surge in COVID-19 cases in Arkansas leads to shortage of ICU beds

(Will Thomas)
Published: Jul. 28, 2021 at 8:59 PM CDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Health experts in Memphis are watching the evolving COVID-19 situation in Arkansas with growing concern as ICU departments across the state are at, or are close to capacity.

“Our ICU is at capacity,” said Rawle Seupaul, chief clinical officer at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) Hospital.

That statement is common at the moment across hospitals in Arkansas.

Currently, there are only 39 open ICU beds across the state out of a total of 1,172 total ICU beds.

The Delta variant of COVID-19 continues to spread rapidly with a 63 percent increase in daily COVID cases reported in Arkansas over the past week. It’s the third highest increase in the country.

“This would not be a problem if we did not have the number of COVID cases that we have and as is turns out, the population of COVID positive patients today are a lot sicker than they were earlier in the pandemic,” said Seupaul.

Seupaul says at their hospital, they’re now having to create more space in their intensive care department to care for the large increase in patients, and it’s making treating injuries from car accidents or heart attacks much more difficult.

“So I think the level of concern is very, very high because unlike most diseases, those that require ICU care with COVID require that care for a very, very long time,” Seupaul said.

“We’ve had transfers in the last few days from Missouri and Arkansas to our ICU,” said Dr. Steven Threlkeld, infectious disease expert at Baptist Memorial Healthcare.

Threlkeld says because medical facilities in Memphis treat so many surrounding regions, this uptick is concerning for local health experts, even though capacity concerns in the past have not caused life threatening issues yet.

“We are definitely in the bullseye of every ring that is going on for 100 miles in every direction. And I hate to tell you the news that things that are going on 100 miles in every direction are not good,” Threlkeld.

Health experts, yet again, say getting the vaccine is the best protection from COVID-19 and the Delta variant. Arkansas’ vaccination rate is just above 40 percent.

Copyright 2021 WMC. All rights reserved.