PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Two Rhode Island health care organizations announced they are accepting COVID-19 patients into their field hospitals for the first time since the pandemic started.
Care New England tells 12 News they admitted their first patients at 3 p.m. Monday to the field hospital set up inside the former Citizens Bank call center in Cranston, while Lifespan says they will be transporting patients to the R.I. Convention Center in downtown Providence starting on Tuesday.
“With this surge in Rhode Island, our hospital capacity has come to a point where we need to transition patients here,” R.I. Hospital emergency physician Dr. Selim Suner said.
An emergency alert was sent to residents Monday morning saying hospitals are at capacity due to the virus.
Dr. Laura Forman, the Cranston field hospital’s medical director, says she hopes this will make people take the virus seriously.
“We have a finite number of staff. We do not have an infinite number of doctors and nurses ready to take care of people,” she said. “This is a precious resource and we need everybody to stay home and stay safe.”
The field hospital has 355 beds available, according to Forman, but for now, they are only opening the first ward.
“We are very hopeful that we can keep to just one ward, keep it to about 100 patients, but we are very concerned, particularly, with what happened over the Thanksgiving holiday that we may need to open up a second or maybe even a third ward in the coming weeks,” she added.
Forman said they admitted less than 20 patients on Monday, adding that the field hospital is similar to a traditional hospital, but without some of the amenities.
“We are prepared to take care of people with COVID-19 who are either low or moderate in terms of the severity of their illness,” she explained. “People who need IV fluids or medication or oxygen, not people who need a ventilator or ICU level of care.”
At the R.I. Convention Center, Lifespan says they plan to admit 24 to 48 patients on Tuesday.
The field hospital has 600 beds, but Chief Nursing Executive Cathy Duquette says they may need more staff.
“We are prepared to take up to 100 patients with the staff we have been able to get, if we see demand increasing we will certainly reach out to get more from our agency partners,” she said.
Lifespan says people brought to the field hospital have to fit a certain criteria, and that doctors will be able to give them the same amount of care as they would at a hospital.