Packed hospitals look to free up space for COVID-19 patients

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Hospitals across the country are jam-packed, looking to make space and free up beds for a new surge of COVID-19 patients.

But how can they continue to treat patients with other health emergencies?

Lawmakers across the country are asking long-term facilities to step up, but there may be some risks.

Kristen Knapp, with the Florida Health Care Association, said nursing homes weren’t made to contain outbreaks.

“We just don’t have the setup for isolation and what’s required when you’re caring for a person with this type of virus,” she said.

In fact, we’ve already seen what happens when the coronavirus hits long-term care facilities.

“We’ve seen in Washington State what that can do,” Knapp said.

Across the country, in places like New York, nursing homes are being told to open their doors to COVID-19 patients.

Experts like Dr. Swati Gaur said that plan could backfire.

“Once you have a nursing home that gets COVID-19, 60% of those patients, all the nursing home patients, are going to get COVID-19, from the studies that we have seen,” Gaur said.

“What they’re seeing is there’s not just one case or two cases, it is usually they come by 15s, 20s, 30s.”

Knapp said that for now, there’s no mandate for Florida nursing homes to allow COVID-19 patients. Instead, state and local leaders are working together to plan ahead and find different sites altogether.

“Let’s figure out off-site areas,” Gaur said. “Look at hotels, look at convention centers and have a clear strategy step by state and regionally so that these patients have a place to go.”

“We have new nursing homes that have been built, for example, but they haven’t gone through and they’ve not opened yet. So they’re looking at that as a potential option,” Knapp said.

Lee Health said they are not at their usual capacity for this time of year, and they have adequate beds and resources to care for the community, as of right now.

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