It's ready if needed

With about 2,000 licensed beds, the state’s hospitals have the capacity to take in patients for at least the next five days, A.J. Schall, director of the Delaware Emergency Management Agency, said during a press briefing April 7.

“At that point, the hospitals will still be managing within their walls, with their staff, very comfortably,” he said. He explained that many hospitals are using rooms that aren’t typically used for patient care.

In the meantime, DEMA is preparing alternate care sites where medical personnel can take care of patients who have not tested positive for coronavirus.

In New Castle County, Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children has already made room for more beds. Some residents at Governor Bacon Health Center in Delaware City are moving to the Delaware Hospital for the Chronically Ill in Smyrna to make room for patients.

For Kent and Sussex County, the state plans a mobile hospital that can care for 50 to 60 people from Bayhealth, Nanticoke Memorial Hospital or Beebe as needed.

Schall said the best option is to have a mobile unit close to the existing hospitals.

“After talking to the leadership of the hospitals in Kent and Sussex County, having something that has the services right across the street is a lot better than right down the road,” he said.

The mobile hospital will be staffed by a combination of workers from the healthcare systems, Delaware National Guard and potentially the Delaware Medical Reserve Corps, said Jeff Sands, DEMA community relations coordinator.

“The location will be based on where the surge [in hospitalizations] is. It will be placed on the grounds of one of hospitals based on their needs. The goal is to be flexible and adjust to the needs of the healthcare systems,” he said.

It will look similar to the large tent that the National Guard and Department of Public Health used as a temporary field hospital during an emergency response training in 2016.

That one could only care for 20 patients at a time and was split up into different sections, including a triage center, a surgery and intensive care unit and a recovery ward.

The mobile hospital designed for the coronavirus crisis is ready to be deployed whenever needed, Sands said.

Hospitals are communicating with DEMA and are asked to give several days’ notice if they expect to need the mobile unit. They have identified certain things that would trigger that response.

“The hospital systems are doing an excellent job of communicating and coordinating needs amongst themselves and with DEMA,” Sands said.