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Mat-Su Regional Medical Center increases ICU capacity to treat additional COVID-19 patients

Published: Oct. 7, 2021 at 4:14 PM AKDT|Updated: Oct. 7, 2021 at 6:41 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Mat-Su Regional Medical Center has increased its ICU capacity to treat more COVID-19 patients. The hospital says that out of 94 patients being treated there, 41 have COIVD-19 and 85% of those patients are not vaccinated.

“Absolutely it would be impacting our numbers,” Alan Craft, director of marketing and public relations at the hospital, said about the low numbers of people in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough who are vaccinated.

Craft says the hospital’s typical ICU capacity is 14, but another area of the hospital is also being used for COVID-19 patients. He said Mat-Su Regional has had as many as 22 ICU patients during the current surge, and that the hospital has the ability to extend its ICU capacity beyond that.

“These patients are sicker than patients we typically see in previous years,” Craft said. “For example our average length of stay in the ICU for an ICU patient would be probably around six days. Now we’re seeing the stays of patients 13, 14, 21, 28 days.”

According to the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services coronavirus response hub, 83 people in the Mat-Su have died with COVID-19. Since the pandemic began in Alaska in March 2020, the state has reported a total 569 Alaska resident deaths and 21 nonresident deaths that have been related to COVID-19.

COVID-19 vaccination rates vary widely across the state but remain low especially in the conservative areas such as the Valley, which is roughly the size of West Virginia. The state’s vaccine monitoring dashboard shows 41.4% of eligible residents there are fully vaccinated, and 46.5% have gotten an initial vaccine shot. The Mat-Su is the least vaccinated of Alaska’s major regions, according to the state health department.

Additionally, Alaska still has the highest rate of new cases per capita in the country.

“That’s a touchy subject in our in our household,” said Etta Weatherup after shopping at the Fred Meyer in Wasilla. “We don’t think the vaccinations are probably safe or functional. I don’t know why it’s escalated the way it has, but we’ve both had COVID and it wasn’t that bad, you know, it was a flu bug.”

Dylan Walker, who was fixing his car in the grocery store parking lot, said he also hasn’t had time to get vaccinated.

“I haven’t caught COVID, I’ve been safe,” Walker said.

According to the state’s hospital data dashboard, 180 people in the state are in the hospital with COVID-19, with 24 adult ICU beds available statewide.

Craft said when the pandemic began, people stayed away from the hospital. This time around, he says people are looking to be treated for other illnesses as well.

“What we’ve been experiencing in this current surge is everybody’s come back to the hospital and on top of that we have those who are in need of care because of COVID,” he said.

Craft said no patients have been turned away and that the hospital is not at its peak for COVID-19 cases.

“Currently we’re not at our heights peak for COVID patients, but we’re extremely high,” he said.

Clarification: This article has been updated to clarify that while Mat-Su Regional Medical Center’s typical ICU capacity is 14, it has the ability to expand ICU capacity beyond caring for 22 patients, the most it has had during this current surge.

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