US hospitals rush to find beds for surge of virus patients

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SEATTLE (AP) – As her due date was fast approaching, Kelly McCarty packed a bag with nursing tops, a robe, slippers, and granola bars. Last week's ultrasound, she said, showed "this baby is head down and ready."

But the new coronavirus has thrown a curved ball at her, bouncing her and 140 other moms-to-be from her first-choice hospital another 30 minutes. The birthing unit at Edmonds Hospital, Washington, is required for COVID-19.

With reduced capacity, US hospitals. USA They rush to find beds for an upcoming flood of patients, opening older closed hospitals, turning single rooms into doubles, and reusing other medical buildings.

Louisiana is making deals with hotels to provide additional hospital beds and has converted three state parks into isolation sites for patients who cannot go home. Illinois is reopening a 314-bed Chicago suburban hospital that closed in September.

In New York, the city's convention center is being converted into a temporary hospital. At Mount Sinai Morningside Hospital, cardiac surgeons, cardiologists, and cardiovascular nurses now care for patients with coronavirus in a converted cardiac unit. The floating hospitals of the US Navy. USA They are headed to Los Angeles and finally to New York. Mobile military hospitals are promised to Washington state.

Simple math is spurring hospital leaders to prepare. With the total of cases of EE. USA Doubling every three days, the empty beds in the intensive care unit, which is needed for about 5% of patients, will fill up quickly.

The hospitals of the EE. USA They reported that 74,000 beds were operated in the ICU in 2018, with 64% filled by patients on a typical day. But the beds available in the ICU are not evenly distributed, according to an Associated Press analysis of federal hospital data that provided a cost report to Medicare in fiscal 2018.

The AP found that more than 7 million people age 60 and older, who are most at risk for severe COVID-19 disease, live in counties without beds in the ICU. AP included ICU beds in coronary units, surgical units, and burn units in the count.

"It is better to be over prepared than to react in the moment," said Melissa Short, who directs women's health for the Swedish Swedish Medical Center, which is using data from China and Italy while trying to double its capacity to 2,000 beds.

In South Korea, some died at home waiting for a hospital bed. In northern Italy, an explosion of cases flooded the hospital system. Videos and photos from two Spanish hospitals showed patients, many connected to oxygen tanks, crowded hallways, and emergency rooms.

About 10 days ago, Dr. Tanya Sorensen received a call from the doctor directing the response to the virus at the Swedish Medical Center in Washington state. How could the system consolidate its delivery services to keep mothers healthy away from the sick?

"I was surprised," said Sorensen, medical director of the women's services in the hospital system. "It made me see the fact that very soon we will face a huge increase in COVID cases."

The Swedish Edmonds facility, where McCarty had planned to deliver it, announced Saturday that it will temporarily close its seventh-floor delivery center, obtaining 35 beds for the expected influx. McCarty will go to an affiliated hospital in Everett.

"They need more beds. If they can open an entire floor, I get it, "said McCarty, a public school teacher who is busy training colleagues about online learning during the state shutdown.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough, that disappear within two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more serious illnesses, such as pneumonia and death.

If other countries have the same experience as China, 15% to 20% of COVID-19 patients will have a serious illness. About 5% could get sick enough to require intensive care.

Equipment is a challenge. About 20% of US hospitals USA They said they did not have enough breathing machines for patients and 97% were reusing or retaining N95 masks, according to a survey conducted last week by the Premier Hospital group purchasing organization.

Who will care for the necessary ICU beds will keep US hospital leaders awake. USA At night.

In western Massachusetts, Nancy Shendell-Falik, a nurse who became a hospital executive, is planning Baystate Health's response. The system's community hospitals and flagship hospital in Springfield are finding space for an additional 500 beds, including 140 beds in the ICU.

She asks herself: Will cross training staff and teamwork help ICU nurses manage a surge of patients who need breathing machines? Will there be enough masks, dresses and masks? You are also concerned with exhaustion, exhaustion, and sick nurses.

"The beds don't serve patients. We need the staff to do it," he said.

During September 11, she worked as a chief nurse in a hospital eight miles from the Twin Towers. He also worked at a Boston hospital that received victims of the 2013 marathon.

“Those things changed our world forever, but they were limited time activities. What is scary about this, "he said, is" we don't know the duration. "

This weekend, McCarty and her husband plan to drive to Everett Hospital, a test for when she goes into labor. When her contractions begin, they will call her father to stay with his 4-year-old daughter. McCarty is taking it easy, knowing the depth of the need.

"If it was my first child, I think it would be a little bit more difficult," McCarty said of adjusting his birth plan for COVID-19. "I know what it is and I've been through it before. Where I deliver isn't necessarily that important. I'm happy to oblige."

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Forster, an AP data journalist, reported from New York. AP journalists Kathleen Foody in Chicago, Melinda Deslatte in Baton Rouge, and Linda A. Johnson in Trenton, New Jersey contributed.

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Associated Press receives support for health and science coverage from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute Department of Scientific Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

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