PROVIDENCE, R.I., -- On Monday, Rhode Island hospitals reached their COVID-19 capacity, prompting the state to open two new field hospitals in order to accommodate the influx of COVID-19 patients. The two new field hospitals would add an additional 900 beds for patients diagnosed with COVID-19.
Over the last two months, COVID-19 has been spreading throughout the United States at what health officials have claimed is ‘an alarming rate.’ In Rhode Island. Governor Gina Raimondo has instituted a state-wide pause that began on Monday. The pause decreases the number of customers allowed in grocery stores at one time, further limits restaurant capacities and forced the closure of all bars and gyms amongst other restrictions.
Dr. Selim Suner, the medical director at Rhode Island’s largest field hospital in downtown Providence, told WPRI that working at the hospital “feels like a dream or a nightmare.” He said, “This is really unprecedented. The Lifespan Alternative Hospital site that we created here is like nothing I’ve seen before.”
Additional COVID-19 beds will allow hospitals to admit more patients, however, medical staff worries that a shortage of doctors and nurses will overwhelm the already struggling healthcare system. Dr. Suner said, “My biggest worry is, you know, will the number of infections continue to rise at this high rate?” Suner says while the field hospital in Providence can accommodate hundreds of patients, he only has enough staff for about 50. “But once we get beyond 100 staffing would be a significant issue,” Suner told NPR.
On Monday, the field hospital in Providence which is run by Lifespan admitted 21 patients and expects to admit around 40 more in the coming days. The Care New England run site in Cranston admitted seven people on Monday and expects to see an additional 20 over the next week.
Governor Raimondo has promised Rhode Islanders that care at the field hospitals is on par with the care received at the state’s existing hospitals. According to Lifespan, patients admitted to the field hospitals are expected to stay an average of five to seven days and are those who require a general inpatient level of care. Neither the Providence nor the Cranston hospitals will take patients who are critically ill.
The two field hospitals were built in the spring and cost approximately $26.9 million but never required usage until now. Dr. Suner said that he is concerned the current wave of spread ravaging the state will get worse before it gets better. “I am very concerned,” he said. “Even if we start following the orders to the ‘T’ today, that’s not going to start having an effect for another week or two. So what we did two weeks ago we’re going to pay for it in the days to come.”