MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Shelby County health experts are especially mindful these days about available hospital and ICU beds.
Hundreds are available at area hospitals, but for each extra bed rolled out, extra nurses and doctors are needed - and where that staff will come from remains a lingering concern as positive cases rise.
"We know it's been increasing and of course that causes great concern," Dr. Steve Threlkeld with Baptist Memorial Hospital said.
The supply and demand question continues for Memphis area hospitals, as a spike in COVID-19 patients inch them closer to maxing out their current bed capacity.
"Things could certainly get worse before they get better," Dr. Threlkeld said.
The latest numbers Monday show 86% of available acute care and ICU beds being used at Shelby County hospitals. In the past four weeks, the total of local COVID-19 hospitalizations increased by 43%.
Dr. Threlkeld is worried hospital COVID-19 patients could eventually mix in with flu cases.
"The concern is, along with a lot of infectious disease folks, is that the first wave could drift on into the second wave without really going away and unfortunately we are on pace for that if we aren't careful," Dr. Threlkeld said.
"The big challenge facing hospitals is not so much the beds but staffing for those beds," Dr. Scott Strome with the UT Health Science Center said.
While the state contracted a staffing agency if and when surge capacity is needed locally, Tennessee will likely compete with other regions dealing with COVID-19 surges.
"When all of the states are having a problem it really limits the pool of people who are available to help," Dr. Strome said.
Shelby County health experts predict the peak time for local hospital demand will be in mid-October. A 400-bed field hospital is also on standby in downtown Memphis.