Santa Cruz Valley Regional Hospital

Santa Cruz Valley Regional Hospital in Green Valley had six coronavirus patients on Thursday, about half of all the patients in the 49-bed facility, according to its CEO.

Kelly Adams said they are getting “more and more” COVID-19 patients daily and are looking for a pulmonologist to allow them to handle difficult cases requiring ventilators.

The hospital does not have a pulmonologist on staff currently.

“Since COVID is a respiratory disease, we’re vigorously looking for a pulmonologist now,” he said.

He said they can handle serious cases for 24 hours before transferring them to a hospital for a higher level of care. He said they are looking for a temporary pulmonologist and expect to have one in two to three weeks.

“If there’s somebody with respiratory distress, they have to go to Tucson,” Adams said.

He said Tucson hospitals are near capacity and there are bidding wars for nurses who work for agencies.

He said Santa Cruz can take non-COVID patients, freeing up bed space in Tucson or other areas for serious virus cases.

Adams said the hospital in Green Valley has enough staff but larger population areas are experiencing a nursing shortage.

“It’s out there,” he said. “Agency nurses and others seem to be outbidding each other at the Tucson hospitals.”

He said there are two agency nurses — hired for a specific period of time from an agency — at the Green Valley hospital.

Hospitals were allowed to resume elective surgeries in May following a stoppage in March and April.

Gov. Ducey on Thursday said hospitals still have discretion to do elective surgeries despite an increase in virus cases.