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Florida's Health Department Wants to Change Counting of COVID-19 Patients in ICU

The Florida Department of Health is asking hospitals to change how they report the number of COVID positive patients receiving care at an ICU to the state.
Miami Herald
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

The way hospitals in Florida update their available intensive care unit beds to the state may change. The department wants hospitals to report only the number of COVID positive patients receiving ICU level of care - and not every single COVID patient in ICU. 

Before, hospitals would report the "current number of COVID positive patients admitted into ICU beds," according to an email from Florida's Department of Health to WLRN.

It adds that hospitals are using a portion of their ICU beds for patients with positive cases of COVID-19, including "those that do not require intensive care."

WLRN is committed to providing the trusted news and local reporting you rely on. Please keep WLRN strong with your support today. Donate now. Thank you.This week Gov. Ron DeSantis defended the decision. "Some of the hospitals had told us they were just using their ICU wing as their COVID wing."

Rebekah Jones, the former manager of the department of health's statewide dashboard, has concerns about the state's reporting change.

"Florida announced yesterday they're not counting the ICU bed availability anymore, a key element in keeping things open, so the state can proceed to the next phase by July 4," she  wrote in a tweet.

The following day, Jones, the former manager of the statewide dashboard,  spoke with WLRN's Luis Hernandez on Sundial. "Their change in language and reporting doesn't affect how many beds are available," Jones said on the program. "And to say someone who is in an intensive care unit and doesn't require intensive care and could essentially be kicked out of an ICU bed, if someone needed it, that kind of situation only happens if the immediate care beds are full. There would be nowhere to kick that person out to. And it's a really irresponsible way to look at patient level care."

At Jackson Memorial Hospital, Dr. Carol Biggs, the chief nursing officer, says her team puts only patients who need critical care in the ICU.

"We have criteria, what meets the level for critical care," she said. "So that's no different with the COVID patient. When you come in, you're evaluated for what level of care is appropriate to treat the symptoms that you have."

Nurses are trained for intensive care and hospitals have a smaller ratio of nurses per patient in the ICU. A hospital system like Jackson says it would only use these resources when a patient needs it.

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Verónica Zaragovia