Capacity Issues Could Thwart U.S. Hospital Response to COVID-19

The number of patients needing treatment for the coronavirus could outstrip hospital resources.

Capacity Issues Could Thwart U.S. Hospital Response to COVID-19

With U.S. officials admitting on Sunday that the nation’s response to the coronavirus has pivoted from containment to mitigation, public health agencies are concerned that American hospitals won’t be able to handle the influx of patients during the outbreak.

According to Dr. Richard Waldhorn, a pulmonary critical care physician, the number of patients needing treatment for the COVID-19 outbreak could outstrip hospital resources, particularly intensive care resources, reports NPR. He estimates the surge in demand for intensive care could range between 200,000 and 2.9 million patients.

According to the American Hospital Association, the United States only has about 65,000 ICU beds. Waldhorn says hospitals could double the number of beds, but that number might still not be enough.

In China, where the COVID-19 outbreak was first reported, the country built two new hospitals to treat its coronavirus patients. Last week, more than 2,000 people were waiting for hospital care in South Korea.

The United States, however, has not reached this point, and it is unclear if it will do so. That said, California, New York, Oregon and Washington State have all declared emergencies regarding the outbreak.

Potential patient surges resulting from the coronavirus outbreak pose significant security challenges for hospitals.

“During a disaster, be it a pandemic, a chemical or radiation contamination event or a natural or manmade catastrophe, a large number of people will be descending upon local healthcare facilities,” says healthcare security consultant Bryan Warren. “A patient surge resulting from a public health event is something that every hospital should be prepared for. They must have processes and plans in place to mitigate the security and traffic related problems that accompany such events.”

Click here to read more about how healthcare facilities can address the security challenges that could arise from the COVID-19 outbreak.

About the Author

Robin Hattersley Gray
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Robin has been covering the security and campus law enforcement industries since 1998 and is a specialist in school, university and hospital security, public safety and emergency management, as well as emerging technologies and systems integration. She joined CS in 2005 and has authored award-winning editorial on campus law enforcement and security funding, officer recruitment and retention, access control, IP video, network integration, event management, crime trends, the Clery Act, Title IX compliance, sexual assault, dating abuse, emergency communications, incident management software and more. Robin has been featured on national and local media outlets and was formerly associate editor for the trade publication Security Sales & Integration. She obtained her undergraduate degree in history from California State University, Long Beach.

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