Montgomery County officials, hospitals say there is enough capacity during COVID-19 surge

Montgomery County officials, hospitals say there is enough capacity during COVID-19 surge

County health officer says goal of 500 additional beds has been met

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Montgomery County health officials and hospital representatives say there is enough capacity to accommodate all COVID-19 patients

Photo from Holy Cross Health

With Montgomery County coronavirus cases continuing to surge this month, county officials and representatives of area hospitals say there is enough capacity to accommodate all patients.

In late March, county officials said they thought they would need an additional 500 hospital beds to address the surge. County Health Officer Dr. Travis Gayles wrote in an email to Bethesda Beat last week that county successfully added the 500 beds and that it was necessary.

Gayles wrote that hospitals freed up bed space through reconfigurations, canceling elective medical procedures and identifying other spaces to support patients.

“We have current capacity to meet the needs of our residents, and that has been accomplished through increasing current space in hospitals,” he wrote.

Gayles said he didn’t know the specific number of patients with COVID-19 that are currently hospitalized, but the county’s hospitalization rate has been about 21%.

Representatives from Holy Cross Hospital in Silver Spring, Holy Cross Germantown Hospital and Adventist HealthCare — which operates Shady Grove and White Oak medical centers — all say they have enough space for coronavirus patients.

At Adventist’s hospitals, patients with COVID-19 are being isolated from other patients to protect the hospital staff and other patients, spokeswoman Taylor Kelley wrote in an email.

Kelley wrote in another email last week that Adventist has added surge capacity for 394 beds throughout its system, which includes 200 at the former Washington Adventist Hospital in Takoma Park.

Kelley wrote that Adventist’s hospitals are using their surge beds and that due to the rise in COVID-19 cases, Shady Grove Medical Center has taken patients from Fort Washington Medical Center in Prince George’s County.

Kelley added that Adventist is adding to its staff to help in areas of the hospitals with surge capacity.

“Adventist HealthCare nurses who were not previously at the bedside have stepped up to help. We are hiring agency nurses and also recruiting nurses, respiratory therapists and others to help if the surge requires it,” she wrote.

Holy Cross added 214 beds of capacity between its two hospitals, spokeswoman Kristin Feliciano said in a recent interview.

In an email last week, Feliciano wrote that both hospitals have had to use their surge capacity “to some degree.”

Feliciano added that some spaces in the two hospitals that were made available for surge capacity have not opened and some have “construction underway.” The situation, she wrote, is “dynamic.”

Neither hospital, Feliciano said, is accepting overflow COVID-19 patients from outside the county.

“We have been at a pretty steady state for the last several weeks, accounting for discharges and admissions,” she wrote.

At Suburban Hospital in Bethesda, staff members converted some rooms into “negative pressure rooms,” also known as isolation rooms, spokeswoman Amy Shaw said in a recent interview.

In isolation rooms, air is prevented from escaping the room, so as not to contaminate other parts of the hospital. Air from each room exits directly out of the building, Shaw said.

Suburban’s new hospital building opened on March 2 — three days before the state Department of Health announced Maryland’s first three cases of COVID-19, all in Montgomery County.

Since then, some patients who were in the older building have been moved into the new building. The hospital has finished converting rooms in the older building into isolation rooms, Shaw said on Monday.

The number of cases in Montgomery County has not peaked yet. COVID-19 cases have increased in the county this month by about 3% to 5% per day, with the total at 6,909 as of Monday morning.

During a press conference on Wednesday, Gov. Larry Hogan said the state exceeded its hospital surge capacity of 6,700 beds when the peak happens and is currently at about 8,100. He mentioned new rooms being added at the former Washington Adventist Hospital in Takoma Park.

Hogan also announced on Wednesday that the state would return to allowing elective medical procedures.

Hospitals have declined to share information about specific numbers of COVID-19 cases, either citing privacy laws or referring all questions to state and county health officials.

Dan Schere can be reached at daniel.schere@bethesdamagazine.com

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For other Bethesda Beat coverage of the coronavirus, click here.

To see a timeline of major coronavirus developments in Maryland and Montgomery County, click here.

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