Does mid-Missouri have enough hospital beds for COVID-19?

Posted on 27 March 2020 at 12:02pm

COLUMBIA - Hospital beds in the mid-Missouri area could become overwhelmed from the spread of COVID-19, according to data from the Harvard Global Health Institute.

The data, which uses estimations of available beds for each of the 306 Hospital Referral Regions across the country, shows how essential it is to "flatten the curve".

If 20 percent of Columbia would to become infected over the next six months, researchers predict Columbia would need 173 percent more hospital beds. However, those numbers can decrease if it is spread over a period of more time. Those numbers can also increase dramatically if more of the population is infected.  

Columbia's Hospital Referral Region covers most of mid-Missouri.

Dave Dillon, a spokesperson for the Missouri Hospital Association, said the numbers are concerning, but that's why action is needed to flatten the curve.

"We know that surge is going to create problems if we had the peak that would be expected if we did virtually nothing," he said. "But we're not doing nothing."

Dillon said hospitals also know how to build capacity and those conversations are currently happening.

Mary Beck, chief nursing officer at MU Health Care, said the system is freeing up beds. That includes canceling elective surgery, which opened up more than 100 beds within just University Hospital.

Eric Maze, a communications strategist at MU Health Care, said in an email that the hospital  was "constantly monitoring space needs and considerations" and that "we have the ability to make adjustments to open up additional beds in certain units if needs arise".

Governor Mike Parson said every day the state is working on alternative locations. 

"From yesterday, we were talking with the corps engineers. How they may help refurbish sites across the state of Missouri. Well that's an old hospital or open arena facility," he said Wednesday. "All of those things are in the process to handle that situation when the day comes for bed space, if we need that bed space."

The data uses information from researchers from China, who reported the median duration of hospitalization was 12 days and the mean was 12.8 days.

The data also assumes around 20 percent of all cases would require hospitalization, which is based off data from Wuhan, China. The researchers also estimated a higher rate of hospitalization for older populations. Although, hospitalization number vary across the globe and doesn't take into account possible spikes or dips in new cases.

Other countries, like Italy and China, saw their healthcare system overrun with patients from the virus. There's a higher number of hospital beds per 1,000 people in those countries.

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