What does the future hold for R.I. field hospitals?

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WLNE) – It’s been a few months since the field hospitals opened in Rhode Island in an effort to ease the burden on hospitals during the surge.

However, as COVID cases, positivity rates, and hospitalizations trend downward statewide, both sites in Providence and Cranston still remain busy and patients keep coming.

“The site has been and will continue to be incredibly helpful to our capacity challenges in the general hospital setting,” Dr. Cathy Duquette, Administrative Director of Lifespan Alternative Hospital said.

Dr. Duquette oversees administrative operations at the Convention Center Site. She says since opening, they’ve cared for 460 patients. Over at Miriam and Rhode Island Hospitals, there are no signs of slowing down yet.

“The Miriam Hospital has been running more then 100% of their licensed bed capacity for the past several months quite honestly,” Dr. Duquette said. “At Rhode Island hospital, we have transitioned or converted our on-site ambulatory surgery center to a boarding unit waiting for hospital beds.”

Over in Cranston, Dr. Paari Gopalakrishnan says the field hospital has cared for just under 200 patients. Over at Kent Hospital, capacity has remained nearly full, but thanks to the field hospital, only a third of patients at Kent have COVID.

“We’re able to unload a decent number of COVID patients for Kent, so we can operate Kent efficiently and effectively and provide care for non-COVID patients,” Gopalakrishnan said.

As hospitals stay busy, the COVID surge seems to be close to over statewide. So why isn’t that data reflected in the hospitals? Doctors say COVID patients typically stay longer.

Dr. Duquette says they have about 90 patients who are no longer COVID positive, but still need hospital care.

“This disease, for some patients, it really has a significant impact,” Dr. Duquette said. “A number of those patients are still in the ICU and very ill.”

She also says capacity issues stem from limited availability at nursing homes and acute care centers. Many of those centers are still closed to admissions, making it difficult to discharge patients.

Dr. Duquette says at Rhode Island Hospital alone, there are currently 30 patients who no longer meet hospital level of care and are stuck with nowhere to go.

Dr. Gopalakrishnan says they did see a little bit of a dip in hospitalizations after the holiday surge, but that has now plateaued.

As for the future of the field hospitals, both doctors say breaking down the sites is not yet in the cards.

“If we move these patients back and don’t have a way to decompress, can we still do our routine care?” Dr. Gopalakrishnan said.

“I’m concerned we might start to see more patients again because of this variant,” Dr. Duquette said. “We are hopeful that we don’t, but we really feel right now that it is still in the best interest in the community and our ability to provide hospital level care, to keep this site open until we see what happens with this variant.”

Categories: Coronavirus, Cranston, News, Providence, Rhode Island