Hospitals brace for bed shortages amid surging number of coronavirus patients

Hospitals brace for bed shortages amid surging number of coronavirus patients

by John R. Fischer, Senior Reporter | March 18, 2020

Experts say that creating makeshift isolation wards with beds in hospital cafeterias and school gyms, and wheeling additional beds into private hospital rooms can expand hospital capacity. Tents and cots in parking lots can also be made available for triaging incoming patients. It is important to note that if a patient has recovered to a certain extent, they may be eligible to return home.

“If a patient is symptomatically recuperated enough to go home they could be discharged even though they might not be 100%,” Dr. Susan Kline, infection prevention medical director for Minnesota Health Fairview, told USA Today.


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In addition to a lack of available beds and limited supplies, hospitals face a shortage in qualified staff members, including nurses, radiology and CT technicians, and intensive care doctors.

The American Hospital Association requested funds from Congress in February to build hospitals and housing to isolate patients. An $850 billion package to alleviate the costs of care for hospitals and those with the virus has passed the House and will be voted on this week in the Senate, according to CNN.

Estimates within the the USA Today analysis are based on population stats from the U.S. Census and the number of hospital beds recorded by the AHA, including those used in nonfederal, short-term general facilities; academic medical centers; and other nonfederal teaching hospitals. Prison hospitals and college infirmaries are not recorded by the AHA.

The infection rate of COVID-19 is unclear. The analysis used rates in a mild flu season, and assumed that 13.8% of patients with severe symptoms and 6.1% with critical symptoms would need to be hospitalized.

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