2020 | Coronavirus

Montgomery County has about 1,500 hospital beds. It needs 500 more.

County official says current supplies would only last up to three weeks under a surge

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About 500 hospitals beds will need to be added at various hospitals and facilities across Montgomery County. Pictured is Holy Cross Hospital in Silver Spring, where outdoor tents were set up to triage patients with symptoms of the coronavirus.

Photo from Holy Cross Health

There are about 1,500 hospital beds in Montgomery County but the state has ordered that an additional 500 be added to increase availability if the number of coronavirus cases surge.

That surge is expected in May or June, according to Dr. Earl Stoddard, director of the county’s office of emergency management and homeland security.

Stoddard told Bethesda Beat Friday that officials from the county and hospitals have discussed using nursing homes, assisted living facilities, hotels, conference centers and other locations for places to find or add beds. The old Washington Adventist Hospital in Takoma Park, which has been closed for about a year and half, could be used and add around 100 beds, Stoddard said.

Construction schedules have been expedited in unfinished areas of local hospitals.. Those include two floors of Adventist HealthCare’s White Oak Medical Center in Silver Spring, a floor at Holy Cross Hospital in Germantown, and one or two observation areas at Holy Cross Hospital in Silver Spring.

All of the hospitals hope to have the construction, which would add space for a total of 150 beds, finished by May, Stoddard said.

Roughly 12%, or about 175, of the 1,500 beds in the six hospitals in the county are intensive care unit beds. That amount will need to increase to 400, Stoddard said. There are about 170 ventilators in the county, as well as a small collection of temporary ventilators used in transporting patients.

The hospitals in the county include Suburban Hospital in Bethesda, Shady Grove Medical Center in Rockville, Holy Cross Hospital in Silver Spring and Germantown, White Oak Medical Center in Silver Spring, and MedStar Montgomery Medical Center in Olney.

The county received a state shipment of supplies on Thursday from the national stockpile, the country’s largest collection of medical supplies for use in public health emergencies..

At this point, the county has supplies that would last two to three weeks under a surge.

“We’re definitely going to need more,” Stoddard said.

Of the supplies received from the stockpile, 124,000 N95 masks and some personal protective equipment will be distributed to county hospitals on Monday. About 15,000 N95 and surgical masks will go to Montgomery County Fire & Rescue.

The health department distributed masks and other personal protective equipment to nursing homes and assisted living facilities.

Stoddard said the amount of supplies each hospital receives will depend on the number of beds they have. He expects another shipment of supplies from the state this weekend — 90% of which will go to the health care system and the rest to fire and rescue staff.

None of the hospitals are out of personal protective equipment right now, so the supplies will go into storage.

Some counties had issues with dry-rotted supplies, but all of the equipment the county received was in good condition.

The county also has a collection of about 15,000 N95 and surgical masks that will go to law enforcement officers.

“Obviously we’ve been trying to acquire, through various means, a whole plethora of different kinds of supplies,” Stoddard said. “Our principal focus has been on the masks because they’re hardest to come by. It’s the thing in our stockpile that’s the most limited.”

The county began stocking up on equipment in January but has encountered issues with delayed or canceled orders with supplies being funneled to New York or other places with a high number of COVID-19 cases, Stoddard said.

“We’re just concerned that in two or three weeks, that critical point of the amount (of supplies) going out and the amount going in will come to create an issue for us,” he said. “What help is left when it’s our turn?”

The county’s procurement staff plan on reaching out to businesses such as tattoo parlors and painting contractors to see if there’s any equipment that the county can purchase.

Many of those businesses are closed because of Gov. Larry Hogan’s orders for all non-essential businesses to close.

Stoddard said the federal government has not provided needed equipment for states to distribute to local jurisdictions to use.

“We hope they’re doling it out slowly, but we’re not getting a lot of communication of when we’ll receive shipments, which makes it difficult to plan around what we will get,” he said.

Maryland only received about 10% of what was requested from the national stockpile, Stoddard said.

County officials are discussing how to apportion supplies if a surge happens and there are shortages. Hospitals will be the first priority, Stoddard said.

As far as staffing needs, Stoddard said the county plans on using Maryland Responds, a volunteer network of primarily licensed medical providers, if there’s a surge of cases. There are just under 1,400 volunteers registered in Montgomery County.

Stoddard said county officials are trying to recruit 600 new volunteers, including nursing students and medical school students.

“Staffing and those supplies are the biggest challenges that we’re facing right now,” he said. “We’re building the plane as we’re flying out.”

Briana Adhikusuma can be reached at briana.adhikusuma@bethesdamagazine.com.