Va. hospitals projected to run out of beds within 6 months
Harvard Global Health Institute model forecasts beds needed to meet COVID-19 demand in all 306 U.S. hospital markets.
If only 20% of Virginia adults contracted COVID-19, hospitals in all major metro regions across Virginia would be overwhelmed, running out of hospital beds within the next six months, according to data from the Harvard Global Health Institute.
The most staggering results from the Harvard study come from the Arlington hospital referral region (HHR) — which encompasses Fairfax County and other Northern Virginia localities. If 60% of adults were to become infected there, hospitals in the region would require an increase of nearly 600% more hospital beds to deal with the crisis during the next six months. The Newport News region — which includes Williamsburg — takes a close second. Hospitals there would need nearly 500% more beds if 60% of the adult population were to be infected. HHRs define the regional markets served by hospitals.
The Norfolk HRR, which includes Virginia Beach, would require 400% more beds if 60% of adults were to become infected.
In the Richmond HRR, if 20% of adults were to be infected with the virus, Richmond-area hospitals would need nearly twice as many beds as are currently available. However, if 60% of adults became infected, it would require an increase of 300% more beds. The Charlottesville HHR — which includes Harrisonburg — has similar projections.
In Roanoke, if 20% of adults were to be infected, it would require to have approximately 150% of its current beds and if 60% were to be infected, it would require 300% of beds. The results for Danville (Durham, North Carolina HRR) and Bristol (Kingsport, Tennessee HRR) are nearly identical.
Virginia HRRs include Richmond, Charlottesville, Roanoke, Arlington, Norfolk and Newport News. Danville falls under the Durham, North Carolina, HRR and Bristol falls under the Kingsport, Tennessee, HHR.
Virginia has more than 18,500 licensed hospital beds, which includes about 2000 ICU beds, according to the Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association (VHHA). On Wednesday, Gov. Ralph Northam and State Health Commissioner M. Norman Oliver issued an executive order directing all hospitals to stop performing elective surgeries or procedures to help conserve supplies of personal protective equipment (PPE). The directive also aims to free up additional capacity in Virginia hospitals, VHHA vice president of communications Julian Walker says.
“There have been just shy of 6,200 people tested in Virginia. There are 460 confirmed cases in 65 hospitalizations,” Walker says. “So at this point, in terms of capacity issues, there is still ample capacity to meet patient needs in Virginia hospitals.”
The Harvard Global Health Institute created this model to project the number of hospital beds needed to meet the demands of the pandemic in 306 U.S. hospital markets. It provides localized estimates of available beds and beds that would be necessary to accommodate COVID-19 patients in the forthcoming months. The model is interactive and users can input their address, which will redirect them to data on their hospital referral region.
“Our goal is to give hospital leaders and policy makers a clear sense of when they will hit capacity, and strategic information on how to prepare for rising numbers of patients with COVID-19 needing care,” Ashish K. Jha, director of the Harvard Global Health Institute said in a statement. “Crucially, we are providing this information at a local, hospital-market specific level. National averages are not very helpful in this context. It’s irrelevant to a person in Utah how many hospital beds are available in Boston. We won’t be transferring large numbers of people to different hospitals. But specific, localized data provides a pathway to understanding what we need to do to get hospitals ready.”
VHHA and the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) are also working on models, Walker says.
“The modeling is based on a relatively small sample size because we are only a few weeks into the experience with this infection in the U.S., so obviously the smaller sample size in some ways can be a limiting or inhibiting factor in the modeling,” Walker says of the Harvard modeling. “That said, our members are working with the state and other partners are planning for a range of scenarios.”
Sentara Healthcare is also developing internal modeling, Dr. Joel Bundy, Sentara’s chief quality officer says.
“Numbers are still early, and we continue to meet regularly with local and state officials,” Bundy says. “We are making all considerations in planning for the long term to ensure we have the resources necessary to continue to provide care to our community. This includes working to increase bed space, secure additional ventilators, obtain additional personal protective equipment as well as coordinating alternate sites of care should that need arise.”
Aside from current hospital beds, there are alternate care sites and field hospitals being set up by health care entities including Mary Washington Healthcare in Fredericksburg and Ballad Health in Southwest Virginia, Walker says.
“There certainly are concerns about overwhelming the system if there are too many serious infections,” Walker says. “Not all infections are going to be serious for people that get them. But if too many serious infections happen all at once or happen in a very compressed period of time, that could lead to capacity challenges. But we’re not there right now.”
To identify which HRR you belong to, visit ProPublica to input your address and see projections.