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Medical personnel work in the Iso-Unit, or isolation area, which is an ICU that is negatively pressured throughout that houses 10 Covid-19 patients and five medical staff who wear full PPE and work in four-hour shifts.

Acadiana hospitals had few ICU beds available on Labor Day as many families prepared for the reopening of public schools in Lafayette Parish this week.

The Louisiana Department of Health's Region 4, which includes seven Acadiana parishes, had just 9% — or 14 ICU beds — available as of mid-day Monday. For comparison, other regions of the state on Monday had anywhere from 18.6% to 32.5% ICU bed availability.

There has only been one other day since the pandemic's start that Region 4 has had fewer than 10% of its ICU beds available, and that was in March before hospitals increased their bed counts to prepare for coronavirus patients.

There have only been three other days in the past six months that any region of the state has dropped below 10% availability of ICU beds, with two of those days happening in March for Region 1 in the New Orleans area and one of those happening in July for Region 2 in the Baton Rouge area.

In August, there was an average of at least 34 ICU beds available per day in Region 4, which includes Lafayette, Acadia, Iberia, Evangeline, St. Martin, St. Landry and Vermilion parishes. 

Region 4 hospitals treated 490 coronavirus patients last week, a 5.4% drop from the 518 patient count two weeks ago.

Lafayette General Health and Our Lady of Lourdes, the two largest hospital systems in Acadiana, confirmed last week a drop in COVID-19 patients, even though ICU beds were nearing capacity. That's due, in part, to patient transfers from Lake Charles hospitals in the aftermath of Hurricane Laura.

Lafayette Parish public students will return to the classroom this week after the start of the school year was postponed to ensure hospitals had the capability of caring for the influx of COVID-19 patients expected to come as children congregate and return home to their families. It remains unclear of how big of an impact the influx of patients from the Lake Charles area might have on Acadiana hospitals in the coming days and weeks.

Patricia Thompson, spokesperson for Lafayette General, confirmed again Monday that the hospital system is treating far fewer coronavirus patients now than during the regional peak in July.

"We are down to less than 30 COVID-19 patients across our health system. However, a busy weekend in our emergency departments, as well as supporting patients transferred from the Lake Charles area, has led to increased volume in our ICU and emergency departments across the system," Thompson said in a prepared statement. "We are ready and prepared to take care of Acadiana and to support patients who are seeking our care temporarily from Region 5, which was devastated by Hurricane Laura."

Elisabeth Arnold, spokesperson for Lourdes, shared a similar sentiment Monday afternoon.

"This weekend, our hospitals remain busy but steady with increased volume of ICU and ER patients as we serve Acadiana and support the Lake Charles area affected by Hurricane Laura," Arnold said in a prepared statement. "State mask mandates implemented in July have helped to decrease our COVID-positive hospitalization from a peak of 82 to averages below 40."

Dr. Tina Stefanski, the region's top public health expert, and a spokesperson for the Lafayette Parish School System were unavailable Monday to comment for this story.

Advocate Staff Writer Jeff Adelson contributed to this report.

Acadiana Business Today: Hospitals in Acadiana see ICU bed shortages as Lafayette public schools prepare to reopen


Email Megan Wyatt at mwyatt@theadvocate.com.