As COVID-19 continues to explode across the state, hospitals in Marion County are struggling to keep up.
Marion County had 1,544 positive cases among residents in a seven-day period between Dec. 27 and Jan. 2 for an average of 220.6 cases per day, according to the Florida Department of Health.
The county added another 139 cases on Monday. Local hospitals have felt the effects of Marion’s surging COVID-19 numbers.
The county has a seven-day positivity rate of 16.5% as of Jan. 3, according to Trinity Clinic, which compiles a local daily report on COVID-19.
There are also currently 149 hospitalizations. Marion County has accumulated 18,621 positives among residents, 1,344 hospitalizations and 485 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic, according to the Florida Department of Health.
“The main concern that we’re having within the healthcare community at this point are the increasing hospital admissions for (COVID-19),” Dr. David Kuhn, who runs the Trinity Clinic dashboard, said.
Higher COVID-19 numbers can affect the wider healthcare system.
“As these numbers increase to the level they’re at now, nursing staff becomes quite short,” he said. “We worry that, if the numbers rise from even where they are now, that hospital care will be compromised for anybody who may need the hospital, whether they’re a (COVID-19) patient or not.”
According to the state’s Agency for Health Care Administration, Marion County has one of the lowest available hospital capacities in the state. As of Monday morning, the county has an available capacity of 10.66%, which is the fourth-lowest of any county with hospital beds. Just 16 beds are available at AdventHealth Ocala, while only five are open at Ocala Regional Medical Center.
ICU availability is also dwindling in Marion County, where the available adult ICU capacity sits at 5.75%. By comparison, 19.76% of adult ICU beds statewide are available. Marion County has three locations with adult ICU beds, and only Ocala Regional Medical Center has space left.
“In late March, AdventHealth Ocala created a 52-bed COVID-19 unit on the sixth floor to prepare for an influx of patients and have been able to provide continued care for patients,” AdventHealth said in a statement. “Our hospitals are designed to create flexible and expandable spaces and we are able to pivot quickly, if necessary, to safely convert existing spaces to standard patient rooms or ICU/critical care rooms. We also have sufficient personal protective equipment (PPE), ventilators and specialized equipment available should it be needed due to increased demand. Additionally, we are prepared to pause our non-emergent surgical cases to increase capacity for COVID-19 patients, if, and when necessary.
Ocala Regional Medical Center also said they had a handle of the surging cases.
“Although over the last few weeks we have seen an increase in patients for a variety of health concerns including COVID-19, we continue to be under normal operations with adequate bed capacity, staffing and supplies to care for all potential and current patients. Bed capacity is a fluctuating figure that routinely changes through the course of the day as patients are admitted and discharged. If we needed to implement surge plans for any reason, we are prepared to do so to ensure we remain able to meet the needs of the communities we serve throughout evolving phases of the pandemic. We are also excited to be opening our new 36-bed unit tomorrow which will continue to highlight the best in class Cardiovascular care we deliver while also bringing additional inpatient bed capacity to the community.”