This story was written and produced by NJ Spotlight. It is being republished under a special NJ News Commons content-sharing agreement related to COVID-19 coverage. To read more, visit njspotlight.com.
More than half of the intensive care unit beds in 10 New Jersey hospitals were filled last week with patients who have COVID-19 or are suspected of having it, an analysis of new federal data shows.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has begun releasing data reported by hospitals that shows how many patients who have contracted or are suspected of having contracted the disease caused by the novel coronavirus are in their facilities. Previously, DHHS had reported this only on a statewide basis. The New Jersey Department of Health reports similar information for the state and regions but not for individual hospitals.
An NJ Spotlight News analysis of the data — which includes weekly bed and patient counts and averages in total as well as averages for those with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 cases from the week beginning July 31 through Dec. 4 — found significant increases in the number of cases hospitals are treating and the percentage of their inpatient beds and ICU beds used by COVID-19 patients.
Click here to see the rise in cases at NJ hospitals
While most hospitals have seen COVID-19 case numbers rise since the week of Nov. 6, the increases are more pronounced at some facilities than others. The data shows the greatest strain on hospital resources during the week of Dec. 4, the most recent week for which data is available, are in South and central Jersey.
For example, Ocean Medical Center in Brick had 160 of 245 adult inpatient beds occupied by a suspected or confirmed COVID-19 patient on an average day last week, a 43% occupancy rate that was the highest in the state. Riverview Medical Center in Red Bank had the highest COVID-related ICU impact, with 16 of 25 “staffed” beds occupied by COVID-positive patients on a typical day last week, a rate of 65%. (ICU beds cannot be used unless enough people are working to meeting strict staffing requirements. So the number of “staffed” beds can change from week to week.)
Data on beds available and patients with, or suspected to have, COVID-19 is reported daily by the hospitals to DHHS. In a blog post on Dec. 7, the first date the department released the data, DDHS staff said the data is imperfect and they are hoping that releasing it publicly will help improve the quality of the data as well as better inform the public and improve the battle against the pandemic.
“By opening COVID-19 datasets, our collective goal is to accelerate scientific and public health insights and shorten the time it takes for COVID-19 information and solutions to save lives,” the blog post states. “The data reporting is one part of the whole-of-government response and is to ensure that every patient requiring hospitalization receives the care they need.”