Lehigh Valley hospitals say they have ICU beds available despite state reporting low numbers

Written by on December 7, 2020

Lehigh Valley hospitals say they have ICU beds available despite state reporting low numbers

By Genesis Ortega

December 7, 2020

As of Sunday evening about 12% of the Lehigh Valley’s 200 plus ICU beds remain open, according to data from the state. And officials warn hospitals could run out. But as WLVR’s Genesis Ortega reports, local health systems are building capacity as case counts surge.

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Getting a clear picture of how many hospital beds are available at any given moment in the Lehigh Valley is tough. 

A state health department dashboard shows what appear to be alarmingly low numbers, but Dr. Jeffrey Jahre, an infectious disease specialist at St. Luke’s University Health Network, says that’s not the full picture.

“At this point in time, it has not reached what we would call a critical nature, and we are watching this on a daily basis. But I think the public can be reassured that we have an adequate amount of ICU beds currently, and we have plans to make certain that we don’t run out of ICU beds come what may.”

However, Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine says the region remains at risk of running out of “licensed” ICU beds – even though local health systems are working to add more. 

“There are times where there are actually more beds than are quote, unquote licensed beds – we know that and we’ve approved that – so that might account for that discrepancy. Hospitals have been diverting other beds to intensive care unit beds to take care of the load.”

If hospital beds run out, patients will have to be transferred to another region. 

And that could happen, as case numbers and hospitalizations are expected to increase dramatically in the coming weeks.

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