Arizona Nurse Shortage Sidelines Non-Covid Patient Transfers

PHOENIX (AP) — An ongoing nursing shortage in Arizona will likely keep non-COVID-19 patients from quickly getting transferred to more equipped hospitals.

State health officials this week rejected a request to expand the state “surge line,” a call-in system to find beds for critically ill COVID-19 patients, to include people with other medical needs, the Arizona Daily Star reported.

“While the Arizona Surge Line has facilitated the transfer of COVID-19 patients for the majority of requests, a small percentage of transfer requests in the last week are still pending due to statewide hospital staffing shortages,” Don Herrington, the state Department of Health Services interim director, wrote.

Gov. Doug Ducey's administration established the surge line last year to better facilitate transfers of patients who were extremely sick with COVID-19.

In recent months, smaller or more rural hospitals have complained of being unable to get patients in dire need of surgery or other medical care into hospitals in Tucson or Phoenix.

Meanwhile, the state dashboard Thursday reported 3,013 new confirmed COVID-19 cases and 69 more deaths.

Since the pandemic began, Arizona has seen in total 1,075,876 cases and 19,727 deaths.

The leaders of the state's largest hospital systems say their hospitalizations are mostly unvaccinated people.

In Arizona, only 57.5% of the eligible population — or more than 4.1 million — have gotten at least one dose of the vaccine.