Top hospital group Lifespan preparing for potential surge in COVID-19 patients


PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) ─ As the number of COVID-19 cases surges nationwide, Lifespan, Rhode Island’s top hospital group, is preparing for the worst.

Lifespan’s Chief of Emergency Medicine Dr. Jeremiah Schuur said while there’s currently plenty of personal protective equipment available in its hospitals, he’s concerned how long those supplies will last.

“We are working to make sure we preserve the supply of PPE that we already have until we can get more,” Schuur said, adding that reusing masks is approved by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Schuur said Lifespan is accepting PPE donations from local businesses. He said donation lists can be emailed to

Dr. Mitchell Levy, medical director of the Intensive Care Unit at Rhode Island Hospital, said there’s plenty of room in Lifespan’s hospitals for COVID-19 patients at this time and, if there were to be a surge in patients, there are protocols in place.

“We have surge plans to be able to house possibly 150 ventilated patients in Rhode Island Hospital, The Miriam Hospital and Newport,” Levy said. “It’s really difficult to say what the surge is going to wind up being like…there’s no way to say except to watch how it happens over time.”

“We have space right now to treat everyone who comes into our emergency department,” Schuur added.

Lifespan has set up a testing tent outside of Rhode Island Hospital’s emergency department. Schuur said anyone arriving by ambulance that is exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19 will be brought into that tent to be evaluated before entering the building.

Schuur said Lifespan hospitals are also low on COVID-19 testing supplies and they’ve had to prioritize who gets tested. He said anyone working on the front lines of the pandemic and those who are part of the vulnerable population will be tested first.

At this time, Lifespan does not intend on laying off employees because of the pandemic, according to nursing administrator Deb Coppola.

“We have no plans of laying off our staff,” she said. “We need our staff.”

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