Is Mississippi’s hospital system prepared to handle COVID-19 cases?

Is Mississippi’s hospital system prepared to handle COVID-19 cases?

JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - There’s no question that the growing numbers of coronavirus cases around the country are putting a new strain on the health care system. So, do Mississippi hospitals have the capacity to handle this COVID-19 outbreak?

From a pure numbers standpoint, things look promising. Kaiser Health News data shows Mississippi’s ratio of beds per 1,000 people is better than most states.

But a look at space doesn’t tell the full story. Staffing is where the Mississippi Hospital Association says things could get complicated.

“As the pandemic worsens, the need for ICU beds, critical care beds, ventilators...which in turn requires a higher level of trained expertise to take care of those patients, that’s going to be the biggest challenge that we face,” said Mississippi Hospital Association President and CEO Timothy Moore.

And they’re looking at options that could alleviate some of that.

“Working with the nurses association and a number of folks across the state, we’re trying to have discussions about where do we find these additional personnel and certainly nurses that have retired that may have taken other professions that are willing to come back into healthcare and provide services at this time that they’re called...are going to be a big part of this,” added Moore.

But there are still unknowns about how big of a strain the state’s hospitals may be forced to take on.

"If you look at even a 20 percent exposure rate, you’re looking at regular normal hospital beds, we would be in need of about 20 percent more beds than we have,” Moore said.

Kaiser Health News numbers show 33 out of the 82 counties have ICU beds. Executive Director of the Mississippi Rural Health Association Ryan Kelly notes the delay of elective services and folks heeding some warnings are freeing up some space.

“They’re not using emergency rooms for things that aren’t emergencies because they don’t want to be there with COVID-19 patients," said Kelly. "We are still on standby, just waiting for what could be a massive surge in the next week or two...hoping it doesn’t happen but prepared if it does.”

Kelly notes the delay of elective services and folks heeding some warnings are freeing up some space.

“They’re not using emergency rooms for things that aren’t emergencies because they don’t want to be there with COVID-19 patients. We are still on standby, just waiting for what could be a massive surge in the next week or two...hoping it doesn’t happen but prepared if it does.”

So far, 32 percent of those who’ve tested positive in the state have needed hospitalization.

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