Utah Republican accuses local hospitals of lying about the reasons they're out of ICU beds

The coronavirus pandemic in Utah was downplayed this week by a Republican lawmaker, who received a fact check from the state's largest-circulation newspaper.

"A Utah Republican lawmaker made an inaccurate claim that the shortage of ICU beds in Utah hospitals was not because of the COVID-19 pandemic but partly because of bad business decisions" The Salt Lake Tribune reported Wednesday. "Rep. Paul Ray, R-Clearfield made the comment during a hearing on what lawmakers could do to thwart President Joe Biden's vaccine mandate for businesses. Ray was riffing on whether people should be required to be vaccinated."

The newspaper reported on the comments Ray made about the local hospital capacity.

"IHC says they're out of space. They're not out of space. They're out of employees. They chased their doctors away. They chased their nurses away. They made it hell for their employees," Ray said. "They got caught in the middle of a pandemic trying to change their business model to increase their billion-dollar bottom line so they can make more money. They got caught with their pants down. Now all of a sudden it's our fault."

Ray's defensiveness may be over the fact he sponsored a "pandemic endgame" bill that lifted coronavirus restrictions.

Intermountain Healthcare said Ray was wrong on the facts.

"This characterization is not accurate. All health systems in Utah and nationally have been deeply impacted by the COVID pandemic and the ongoing surge of new cases and hospitalizations caused by community transmission of the delta variant. Intermountain Healthcare also continues to experience very high patient volumes for COVID and non-COVID patient care. Our caregivers and leaders are working extremely hard to provide the best care possible during this extraordinary time," spokesperson Jess Gomez told the newspaper.

Ray's comments came on the same day Utah announced another 11 coronavirus fatalities.