Could Pennsylvania’s vacant hotels be turned into coronavirus field hospitals?


PENN LIVE - “There’s a substantial likelihood we are going to see a surge that might reflect the worst-case scenario,” said Jeremy Kahn, a professor of critical care medicine and health policy at the University of Pittsburgh. “I’d be hard-pressed to think of anything as too extreme.”

Kahn, a practicing doctor in the intensive care unit at UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital in Pittsburgh, said transforming these kinds of spaces into field hospitals is challenging. Even rudimentary hospital rooms are usually equipped with oxygen, suction, lighting, and telemonitoring equipment to track a patient’s blood pressure and heart rate. All of that requires a stable electricity supply that may be difficult to add to a building not designed for it.

“Frankly, I’m a little skeptical this is the most efficient solution to meet the demand for this influx of patients,” he said. The more likely solution, Kahn said, is that these makeshift hospitals would be used to care for less severe cases or those who are recovering and no longer need intensive care.

When asked about the possible bed shortage Wednesday, Pennsylvania Health Secretary Rachel Levine said, “We might use hotels or other spaces to have people convalesce with limited medical care that they might need." The best course the state could take, Kahn said, would be to move less severe cases to another facility before putting critically ill patients “in an ad-hoc ICU at a dorm or hotel.”

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