Hospitals prepared to make beds available for COVID-19 patients

Updated: Oct. 21, 2020 at 10:27 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Here at Baptist Memphis there are about 17 patients with COVID-19 in ICU. But what happens if that number starts to grow?

A system put in place here about five years ago should help the process run smoothly. As COVID-19 cases surge across the country, hospitals in the Mid-South are preparing for a potential increase of new patients.

“I hope we’re going to learn equally well from North Dakota and Colorado and Utah and some of the states that are being hit hard right now. Some of them are running out of hospital beds,” said Infectious Disease specialist Dr. Stephen Threlkeld.

Baptist Memorial Health Care says they are prepared with over 3,000 beds in their system of 18 hospitals across three states. Wednesday Baptist officials gave us a virtual tour of their Patient Placement System. When a patient walks through their doors,  a staff of registered nurses scour screens that tell them which rooms are clean, dirty, or will be coming online soon.

“We have a team here that is dedicated to put the right patient at the right place at the right hospital at the right time,” said Dr. Melrose Blackett who is the director of the system.

Let’s say the hospital beds become full at Baptist East, staff with the Patient Placement Center could send a COVID-19 positive patient to Collierville or Baptist Desoto. But currently, the number of COVID-19 patients within the Baptist health care system is low.

As of early Wednesday evening, only about 22% of ICU beds were occupied with COVID-19 patients within all Baptist metro-Memphis hospitals.

However, people shouldn’t let their guard down.

“We’re starting what could be a very bad time in the next couple of months or so in a level of transmission and a level of hospitalization that is far above what they saw in Europe,” said Threlkeld.

Baptist physicians can also monitor patients through their eICU program. They have cameras set up in over 200 ICU hospital rooms. If by chance, all 3,000  beds become full they can transfer patients outside of their network. Plus the city has another backup plan with makeshift overflow hospitals like the one in the old Commercial Appeal building.

Read more coronavirus coverage here

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