After Gov. Larry Hogan announced that the state would add 6,000 hospital beds to account for a possible surge in coronavirus patients, state and hospital officials said so many beds likely won’t be necessary.
That’s because Hogan also announced additional measures that should reduce the size of any surge in cases and demand for beds.
“We’ve got three or four models we’re building to double check because each has its variables, and the worst case scenario we’re planning for has about 6,000 beds,” said Dennis Schrader, chief operating officer for the Maryland Department of Health, in a news conference Tuesday. “The most important thing is through the governor’s interventions, we’re looking at less than the worst case.”
It’s unclear what changed overnight given that the measures undertaken by the governor either already were announced, such as school closings, or announced at the same time as the hospital bed expansion, such as the bar, restaurant, gym and theater closings. And while those restrictions largely on mass gatherings are recommended by public health experts, none has had time to show up in the case data.
But Hogan reiterated the state’s commitment to add 6,000 beds as quickly as possible Wednesday on a “Morning Joe” appearance on MSNBC. He said the state’s Surge Capacity Action Team is coordinating the effort to prevent overwhelming the hospital system’s capacity.
“We don’t have time to wait,” he said.
Bob Atlas, president and CEO of the Maryland Hospital Association, said the situation does keep changing, and the hospitals and the governor’s administration remain in constant contact.
“It was an early estimate based on the worst case scenario,” Atlas said. “The surge need is smaller, though I can’t offer a number. It’s a fluid situation.”
He said the actual number of beds added would be “more than 1,000.” Any surge in cases could be weeks or months away, and the hospitals will prepare in stages.
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Questions remain about the ability of hospitals to absorb a rapid increase in the number of cases, especially if many require hospitalization, intensive care and ventilators to treat complications from pneumonia, which can happen as a result of COVID-19.
The state’s four dozen hospitals currently have about 9,400 beds, according to state data. But that includes beds for children, birthing mothers, and surgical and psychiatric patients.
The beds were 90% full, according to a recent census by the Maryland Institute for Emergency Medical Services Systems.
Hospitals are required by their accreditation agencies to be able to boost capacity within their walls by 10% to 20%, which could mean up to 1,880 extra beds.
Atlas said plans to reopen old hospitals would be problematic because they would have to be staffed.
Schrader and Atlas both said more details would be provided on the bed plan in about a week.
Baltimore Sun reporters Hallie Miller and Pam Wood contributed to this article.