Last Friday, a day on which Santa Cruz County’s reported coronavirus-related hospitalizations rose by three from the previous day and seven from the day before that, a report showed that Holy Cross Hospital was treating zero confirmed or suspected COVID-19 patients.

The report, part of an email sent to health professionals by a manager at Carondelet Health Network, which operates Holy Cross and several other Southern Arizona hospitals, confirmed the growing public awareness that, as COVID-19 continues to spread rapidly in the community, the county’s only hospital has little capacity to treat seriously ill patients.

Since the start of the pandemic, administrators at Holy Cross have been reluctant to speak publicly about the hospital’s COVID-19 preparedness and testing efforts, declining requests to interview medical officials and referring most questions to an out-of-county corporate spokesman for the Dallas-based for-profit Tenet Healthcare Corporation, which owns the Carondelet Network.

But as the number of infections spiked in Santa Cruz County in recent weeks and the state’s reporting of hospitalizations remained exceptionally low, it became increasingly clear that local residents were having to be transported to hospitals in Pima County for treatment of serious COVID-19 infections. Speaking for a story last week after the county started reporting its own, significantly higher hospitalization numbers, County Health Director Jeff Terrell told the NI that all of the local residents he was aware of at the time who had been hospitalized with the disease had been treated at out-of-county hospitals.

Holy Cross has three ventilator units available, according to the June 12 report, but it didn’t say if they were being used.

A Tenet spokesman told the NI earlier this month that patients at Holy Cross can be transferred to Carondelet partner facilities in Tucson, like St. Joseph’s Hospital, which has a dedicated unit for COVID-19 patients.

According to the report, St. Joseph’s had 24 confirmed COVID-19 patients along with nine who were suspected to have the disease as of last Friday. St. Mary’s Hospital – another Carondelet facility in Tucson – had 27 confirmed and no suspected cases.

Some local patients have also been transferred from Holy Cross to Santa Cruz Valley Regional Hospital in Green Valley, according to CEO Kelly Adams.

He said the hospital received three COVID-19 patients from Santa Cruz County last week.

“As of recently, it seems like we’re seeing more from Santa Cruz County and Nogales,” Adams said. On Tuesday, he said that two of the hospital’s six Intensive Care Unit beds were occupied, but he didn’t think either of the ICU occupants were COVID-19 patients from Santa Cruz County.

With confirmed COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations rising in the local area and around the state, some hospitals are reportedly nearing critical care capacities.

On June 6, Arizona Department of Health Services Director Cara Christ told hospitals to activate emergency plans in light of the rising numbers of COVID-19 cases. And on Monday, ICU beds in use, ventilators in use and emergency department visits for COVID-19 all reached record levels in the state, the Arizona Republic reported.

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