Alaska hospitals struggle with ICU capacity deficits


Ethan Kispert


COVID-19 is pushing against hospitals’ capacity limits as the Delta variant continues to spread and drive up case numbers. According to the latest data from the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS), there are just 20 unoccupied adult ICU beds left in Alaska. 


Stay one step ahead. Join our email list for the latest news.



Just yesterday, there were 601 new COVID cases recorded in the state. Over the weekend, Alaska beat its previous record high for hospitalizations. “The number of people hospitalized with the virus reached a pandemic-high of 151 for most of the weekend,” Jared Kosin, president of the Alaska State Hospital and Nursing Home Association (ASHNHA), said in an interview with Anchorage Daily News.

ICUs in the south central region of Alaska, including facilities such as Providence Alaska Medical Center, the Alaska Regional Hospital, the Alaska Native Medical Center, and the Alaska Central Peninsula Hospital are filling up. According to a DHSS dashboard, Alaska Regional Hospital and Providence Alaska Medical Center are almost at full capacity. The dashboard shows that both the Alaska Native Medical Center and the Central Peninsula Hospital are nearing capacities in their respective ICU units as well. 

According to a COVID-19 hospitalizations dashboard from DHSS, 13 out of the available 14 adult ICU beds in the Mat-Su Regional Hospital are being used by COVID-19 patients. 

Jonathan King, a consulting economist with Halcyon Consulting, stated in an email to State of Reform that new variants of COVID-19 have hit the Mat-Su region hard and are testing their ICU limits. 

“The Mat-Su has experienced a later Delta surge than the rest of the state and so they’ve frequently had more unused capacity than Anchorage of late, but that’s changing as Delta picks up steam in the Valley.”

To add, none of the Anchorage medical facilities are accepting outside transfers to their emergency departments, according to DHSS. This list includes the Alaska Native Medical Center, the Alaska Regional Hospital, and the Central Peninsula Hospital. 

Virus breakthrough cases among previously vaccinated individuals are also starting to become more common in the state. According to a report from DHSS, breakthrough cases are on the rise in the state with a total of 1,890 cases from January 16 to July 31, 2021. Data from the report shows that there were 1,222 total breakthrough cases for the month of July — a tally that’s up from just 173 total cases a month earlier. 

King attributes the latest surges in COVID-19 cases and ICU capacity shortages to the summer months, stating:

“Summer is traditionally a time of high ICU usage with Alaska’s influx of visitors and summer outdoor activities. COVID is taking up whatever small amount of slack there was in the system.”