Hospitals prepare for potential surge of COVID-19 patients
They're monitoring the situation at Massachusetts General Hospital, and trying to prevent what is happening at hospitals in Italy.
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WLNE) — So far, Rhode Island hasn’t seen any surge in patients at hospitals due to COVID–19.
But the fear is that if and when it does happen, it could overwhelm a system, already running close to full capacity.
“Hospitals have increased their occupancy rates to cut down on costs,” said Dr. Selim Suner, Rhode Island Hospital’s Director of Disaster Medicine and Emergency preparedness. “So hospitals are used to running at 90–100 percent capacity.”
The health department says the majority of the ICU beds in the state are already occupied.
Lifespan, which operates facilities like Rhode Island Hospital, says it’s looking at ways to increase the number of available beds by postponing elective surgeries and repurposing regular beds for ICU needs.
Dr. Jeff Bratberg, a professor of clinical pharmacy at the University of Rhode Island and an infectious disease expert, says the medical community has to be innovative in preparing for a potential surge.
“If we run out of supplies or testing kits or ICUs or beds, we’re going to have to ration care,” said Bratberg. “And really I think the important thing is, protecting health care workers.”
That’s why Lifespan is also taking measures like having staff use masks more than once to conserve equipment in the long–term.
“This could be extended several months,” Suner said. “And that’s the main reason why we’ve instituted these conservation methods early on. Even if we have stock in place, we’re still conserving looking into the future.”
Care New England, which operates facilities like Kent Hospital, says it is anticipating a surge in patients. The company says its surge plan involves changing workflows and increasing capacity, including seeing patients in tents or cars. It can also get additional ventilators and masks from the state stockpile.