Zurik: Hospitals increase capacity ahead of expected increase of COVID-19 patients

Hospitals in the New Orleans area have managed to increase their capacity after being near critical levels earlier in the week
Patient in a hospital bed
Patient in a hospital bed(MGN)
Updated: Mar. 19, 2020 at 7:27 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) - Hospitals in the New Orleans area have increased their capacity ahead of an expected increase of COVID-19 patients that may seek treatment at area hospitals. Earlier in the week, Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards expressed concern on a conference call with the nation’s governors and President Donald Trump.

At a Thursday afternoon press conference, Governor John Bel Edwards compared the increase of Louisiana cases to that of Italy which rapidly saw cases increase, overwhelming that country’s hospital system.

“We were able to determine that under a -- basically a worst-case scenario -- the Coronavirus spread and its impact could begin to outpace our healthcare capacity in a certain region, down in Orleans, Jefferson within about seven to ten days without additional support from the federal government," Gov. Edwards said.

But since that press conference and dire warning, the numbers have improved in 24 hours.

The Lousiana Department of Health released numbers on Thursday showing available hospital beds in the New Orleans area at about 33 percent. On Friday, the department reported that total hospital bed capacity in Region 1, which is the New Orleans metro area, increased since their last report to 4,327 beds. Hospitals reported approximately 35 percent of those beds are available.

New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell said at a Friday afternoon press conference, the concern over hospital capacity has them scouting out overflow hospital sites in the city, should they be needed. The city’s health department director said the increase in positive test results being reported will continue to increase into the next week, further confirming that there is ‘significant’ community spread in the City of New Orleans.

Looking at other regions in the state, Region 9 which includes St. Tammany, Washington and Tangipahoa Parishes and has 2,194 hospital beds, of which more than fifty percent were available on March 19. Their numbers on March 20 remained at about 52 percent bed availibility.

The health department’s Region 3 encompasses St. Charles, St. John, St. James, Lafourche and Terrebonne Parishes. That region has the fewest beds in the state at 1,001, but as of March 19, 47 percent of those beds were available. On Friday, the Louisiana Department of Health reported that the bed capacity increased slightly in that region and of the 1,007 beds, 47% were available on March 20.

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