As the number of COVID-19 cases continues to increase around the world, many hospitals are working to stretch their resources and supplies as far as possible to cope with influxes of patients. The three main challenges for hospitals are finding additional beds, ventilators, and creating new space for these patients.
With respect to hospital beds, large hospitals might have the budgets to order additional beds. However, this is not an option for many hospitals that do not have available funds, even when considering cost-effective products from countries like China. Therefore, it is up to many hospitals to free up bed space for COVID-19 patients. Hospitals will be able to gather beds from surgical units, since all elective surgeries have been reduced. Hospitals first postponed surgeries for non-cancer cases that were deemed to be non-urgent. This is estimated to increase bed space by about 10%. Furthermore, by only allowing surgeries for urgent cancer cases, beds available for COVID-19 patients would increase by another 5%. Since recovery rooms are being closed due to a reduction in the number of surgeries, additional beds can become available for COVID-19 patients. In addition, medical wards are discharging patients who have been staying in beds for long periods of time. Families have been required to take home elderly or long-term care patients that are not considered to be at risk of deteriorating health. Rehabilitation wards will also have a reduction of patients due to reduced admissions. Emergency units are experiencing a lower volume of admitted patients due to COVID-19, as people stay safe indoors. Therefore, excess beds in emergency units can be used for COVID-19 patients. Essentially, this would max out a hospital in terms of creating available beds for COVID-19 patients.
To increase availability of ventilators, hospitals can move machines from operating rooms into COVID-19 ICUs and other wards that have been set up for COVID-19 patients. Ventilators from recovery rooms and storage rooms can also be set aside for COVID-19 patients.
In terms of creating space, hospitals have adapted to finding room for an influx of COVID-19 patients. For example, storage areas in hospitals can be converted into additional space for COVID-19 patients. Parking lots with tents can also be used as temporary care spaces. In general, large hospitals are having an easier time converting space compared to small hospitals. In addition, a large majority of outpatient centers will be shut down and can be used to treat COVID-19 patients. Orthopaedic clinics are also closing and the space can be used for COVID-19 patients.
With no clear end to the COVID-19 crisis in sight, the ability of hospitals to free up additional beds, ventilators, and space will determine how many individuals will eventually succumb to the disease.