Hospitalizations for COVID-19 are on the rise again in Tennessee, but health officials are a little less worried about making room for all of the patients. In a change from the earliest days of the pandemic, they’ve found a way to shorten stays without jeopardizing patients.
COVID patients can spend weeks or even months in the hospital, and that hasn’t always been because they’re so sick. Often, the problem is they have nowhere else to go.
Dr. Wendy Long, CEO of the Tennessee Hospital Association, says the patient limbo is particularly problematic when they need to go to a nursing home or rehabilitation facility.
“But more recently we’ve worked closely with the state, and they’ve developed some placements that are willing to take these patients,” she says. “That is really helping.”
A spokesperson for the Tennessee Department of Health says the state has established at least eight facilities, including two in the Nashville area, called COVID-Specific Care Centers. They’re specifically for patients still testing positive for the coronavirus who couldn’t be admitted to most nursing homes for fear of spreading COVID to others.
Long says having special facilities to send recovering patients should mean hospital capacity becomes less of a concern. The state is no longer actively preparing makeshift hospitals, and hospitals have not needed to activate their own internal surge plans.
However, there could be isolated areas that run into trouble, because hospitalizations, which have again topped 1,000 cases, are no longer concentrated in urban areas like Nashville or Memphis. Maury Regional Medical Center and Cookeville Regional Medical Center already have more COVID patients than they’ve treated at any point in the pandemic, Long says.
“It’s impossible to predict where that peak will hit before we see another downturn,” she says. “But the numbers right now are quite concerning.”