How local hospitals are adapting to surge in COVID hospitalizations

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As COVID cases surge in Pennsylvania, hospitalizations are surging as well. We checked in with local hospitals about capacity levels and plans moving forward.

UPMC has added nearly 200 nurses in the past week and has expanded its telemedicine capabilities. Tuesday, the hospital system said, the number of COVID-19 patients it’s caring for, accounts for 20 percent of its overall bed capacity.

“If necessary, we are able to flex up the number of beds, both medical and intensive care beds to meet the needs of all of our patients,” said Leslie Davis, UPMC’s executive VP and COO Health Services Division.

Penn State Health has more than 170 ICU beds across its hospital system. We’re told, they’re anywhere from 80 percent to almost full. Penn State Health plans to convert recovery rooms and short-stay units into COVID treatment areas, as cases continue to rise.

“We are looking at alternate site opportunities and those are discussions that are ongoing with the state, with DOH, with hospitals in our area,” said Dr. Peter Dillon, Penn State Health’s Chief Clinical Officer.

Penn State Health has capped elective surgeries in Hershey to make more room during this surge.

“Our modeling shows we can have enough beds,” said Dr. Dillon.

Staffing issues are a bigger concern.

“We’re looking for every alternative to be able to re-deploy staff. Some of our projects are about, how do we bring in some of our ambulatory staffing sites into the hospital,” said Dr. Dillon.

As of Tuesday morning, WellSpan’s seven hospitals that care for COVID-19 patients have 357 COVID patients, which is 33 percent of all hospitalized patients. That’s about six times the number of COVID patients WellSpan had in October. They’ve postponed some elective surgeries and are opening alternative care sites as well. The first opened Monday in Lancaster County.

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