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Columbia hospitals have availability in ICU beds, plans to expand in case of surge


The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation projects Missouri will see its peak need for hospital resources on April 25 amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Projections show the state having more than enough regular hospital beds. According to IHME, whose projections are often cited by media and public health agencies, there are 7,933 beds available statewide. The upper end of projections for April 25 puts the highest possible need at 4,470 beds.

The projections also show the state has more than enough ventilators. On April 25, IHME predicts Missourians could need anywhere from 107 to 749 invasive ventilators. The state has a total of 2,045 ventilators (including both adult and pediatric), of which 1,173 are currently available.

However, there is not a cushion when it comes to intensive care unit bed space. 

The projection shows a need for 367 ICU beds on April 25. The Department of Health and Senior Services has 689 ICU beds available. IHME, which sources the American Hospital Association for its data, says the state has 558 ICU beds available.

But Lori Thombs, the director of the Social Science Statistics Center at the University of Missouri, told ABC 17 News last week that the likelihood of a specific outcome is the same throughout the entire range of outcomes.

That means there's an equal chance of the need being at the top of the range -- 876 -- as at the bottom.

Projections show a possible shortage of ICU beds in Missouri during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Projections show a possible shortage of ICU beds in Missouri during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"They're all equally likely ..." Thombs said. "That's what a confidence interval is about. You take a point estimate and you add and subtract some uncertainty."

The point estimate in this case is 367 ICU beds. Though that is on the highlighted dotted line, there is nothing that makes that number have greater weight than the range of 125 to 876 beds. The need could sit anywhere in that range, raising the question of whether the state has enough resources. If the state needs 876 beds, Missouri would be 318 beds short, according to IHME.

Eric Maze, a spokesman with University of Missouri Health Care, said Monday that the hospital system has 98 adult ICU beds, of which fewer than half are available. The system also has 58 neonatal, 13 pediatric and two obstetric ICU beds

"MU Health Care has flexibility with its multiple hospitals and clinics," Maze said. "We are constantly monitoring space needs and considerations, and we have the ability to make adjustments to open up additional beds in certain units if needs arise."

Boone Hospital Center has a total of 32 ICU beds. Dr. Robin Blount, the chief medical officer at Boone Hospital Center, said the hospital has great ICU availability and is able to make even more.

"We have our ICU and we also have a step-down unit," Blount said. "That step down unit has the same monitoring capabilities and private rooms and glass doors that shut and all of the same facilities as our ICUs."

In the hospital's surge plan, the step-down unit would be used for coronavirus patients if the ICU reaches capacity. The hospital also has a post-operation care area, which has all of the capabilities of an ICU but operates more like a bay. This would be used for non-COVID-19 patients in case of a surge.

Local hospitals are also collaborating on surge plans. In the case of one ICU wing filling up, the hospitals plan to work together.

"We all have got each others backs," Blount said. "Of course, we’ll take care of our patients that come to us, but if it reaches a point that there’s a capacity, we’ll be talking to each other and sharing if need be."

The Missouri Hospital Association report 549 COVID-19 patients hospitalized statewide Monday. Three of those are in MU Health hospitals.

Article Topic Follows: Coronavirus

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Molly Stawinoga

Molly Stawinoga is ABC 17’s weekday morning anchor and a reporter at ABC 17 News. Molly joined the news team in 2017 while studying political science, journalism and Spanish at the University of Missouri. She is originally from DeKalb, Illinois.


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