A look inside the Cranston field hospital as it prepares to start accepting patients

Coronavirus

CRANSTON, R.I. (WPRI) — With the coronavirus pandemic rapidly worsening in Rhode Island, the state has begun preparing its field hospital in Cranston in case of an overflow of patients.

During her weekly coronavirus briefing Thursday, Gov. Gina Raimondo said she has asked for the field hospital at the former Citizens Bank Call Center to begin preparations to open, including training those who will staff it.

Only 16% of beds dedicated to COVID-19 patients are currently free in Rhode Island’s hospitals, and Raimondo said they are on pace to be filled in about a week or two based on the state’s current trajectory.

The Cranston field hospital was completed in mid-April but has yet to accept any patients. There are 353 beds divided among three color-coded pods.

R.I. Dept. of Administration Director Brett Smiley said the field hospital cost about $8 million to set up and will cost about $3 million each month to operate once fully staffed.

The state said that number could increase to $15 million a month once it is completely filled with patients. The exact cost per month, the state said, will depend on how many patients are being treated there.

While the field hospital is federally funded, Smiley said they’re also taking private insurance from patients.

Dr. Laura Forman, chief of emergency medicine at Kent Hospital, will be running the Cranston field hospital, but she said it should only be considered as a last resort.

“This is an option after we have run out of every other option,” she said of the field hospital. “It absolutely is something we can avoid. If people stay home now, if people avoid social gatherings now, if people avoid any unnecessary activity now, the pandemic can be stopped in its tracks.”

On Thursday, Forman painted a bleak picture of the situation inside the state’s hospitals as coronavirus patients say goodbye to their loved ones on FaceTime and die alone, comforted only by their physicians.

When it comes to staffing, CEO of Women & Infants Hospital Shannon Sullivan said it’s going to be harder to find people now than it was in the spring.

Sullivan said that in the spring, elective surgeries had been stopped along with other services, allowing extra medical personnel to look for work. She added they are putting out a call to anyone with medical skills to help.

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