A retiree organization on Monday reacted with outrage to a report that the Florida Department of Health has changed the way it reports the number of COVID-19 patients in intensive care unit beds in a way that could result in a lower count.
Bill Sauers, President of the Florida Alliance for Retired Americans, issued a written statement denouncing the accounting change and blaming Gov. Ron DeSantis.
“If you are in an ICU bed, by definition you need an intensive level of care. This is an attempt to cook the books and hide the number of patients with COVID-19,” he said.
“The availability of ICU beds is a key measure of the outbreak in Florida, and it’s critical for the public to understand what is happening,” he continued.
The News Service of Florida has reported that state Surgeon General Scott Rivkees told hospitals to report only ICU patients receiving “an intensive level of care” — and not the total occupying ICU beds. He reportedly that some hospitals were housing all COVID patients in ICUs whether they require intensive care or not.
As of Monday, according to the state’s figures, nearly 27 percent of the state’s ICU beds were available to COVID and other patients.
Sauers noted that Florida now has seen more than 100,000 COVID cases.
“Older Floridians remain at risk. It was just a few weeks ago that Gov. DeSantis was refusing to release the names of long-term care facilities with outbreaks. Now he wants to hide what is going on in our hospitals. If Gov. DeSantis cared as much about our health as he does about PR, we would all be safer from this deadly virus.”
The Florida Department of Health issued a written statement arguing that the change will make the numbers more accurate.
The new wording is ‘current number of COVID + (positive) patients currently receiving ICU level of care.'” The old wording was ‘current number of COVID + patients admitted into ICU beds,’ the department said.
“This change in wording was made to more accurately capture the number of COVID-19 patients receiving intensive care. This will not impact the manner in which hospital bed availability is calculated or reported.”
Nikki Fried, Florida’s Democratic Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Affairs, also commented, asking on her Twitter feed, “What is the need for this change now @HealthyFla?” That’s the twitter feed for the Florida Department of Health, which Rivkees runs.