PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) ─ Rhode Island’s hospitals are nearly at capacity as beds fill up with COVID-19 patients, and Gov. Gina Raimondo said it could be a matter of weeks before the state needs to open its two field hospitals.
During her weekly coronavirus briefing Thursday, Raimondo said the hospitals are currently at 97% capacity, and the R.I. Department of Health reported the number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients climbed to 298, with 22 currently in intensive care and 13 on ventilators.
Raimondo said hospitals statewide are struggling with staffing shortages and a lack of beds for new patients.
“Dozens of people are showing up each day,” she said. “We are on a very bad path to overwhelm our hospitals.”
She said the field hospital inside the former Citizens Bank Call Center in Cranston will be ready to accept patients starting next week, and the one inside the Rhode Island Convention Center in Providence will be up and running on Dec. 1.
If there is a surge in COVID-19 patients that leads to an overflow in the state’s hospitals and triage centers, Raimondo said they’re prepared for that, too.
“The way we get beds quickly, if we overrun our field hospitals, is to start shutting down other procedures at hospitals and go to ‘crisis standards of care,'” she explained. “Any doctor or nurse or patient who’s been around for crisis standards of care will tell you – you don’t want to be there.”
Raimondo said crisis standards of care would be problematic for everyone’s general health. She said doctors have already seen an increase in advanced cancers from patients who opted to cancel their appointments during the initial surge earlier this year.
In an effort to prevent Rhode Island from getting to that point, Raimondo ordered the state into a two-week “pause” starting Nov. 30, which will include new closures and restrictions. She also banned Rhode Islanders from socializing outside of their households.
She said while the state has seen a decline in patients needing intensive care, hospitals are still struggling to keep up with the influx of admissions.
Those issues will only get worse over time, she noted, especially if Rhode Island is forced to open both of its field hospitals.
“The hard part is staffing them,” Raimondo said of the field hospitals. “There’s massive shortages all over the country and people are tired and burnt out. It’s the staffing where we will get into trouble.”