Cleveland Hospitals Adjust To Treat Younger Patients As COVID-19 Cases Rise

While Cleveland- area hospitals are seeing increases in COVID-19 admissions, there is still room in the intensive care units at this point.[sfam_photo / Shutterstock]
While Cleveland-area hospitals are seeing increases in COVID-19 admissions, there is still room in the intensive care units at this point.[sfam_photo / Shutterstock]
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Cleveland-area hospital officials say the number of patients seeking care for COVID-19 continues to climb, and hospitals are adjusting to caring for younger patients sick with the virus.

A large number of the people coming into hospital emergency rooms and being admitted are younger and many don’t need critical intensive care unit beds, said Dr. Robert Wyllie, chief medical operating officer at Cleveland Clinic.

Cuyahoga County remains under a Level 3 health advisory from the Ohio Department of Health -- meaning the threat of exposure and spread remains high – and on Friday, health officials expressed concern that the county was approaching Level 4 due to decreased ICU bed occupancy.

Many of the patients who are being admitted and treated for the virus are much younger than those seeking help earlier in the pandemic, Wyllie said. Because of that, they are developing different surge preparations.

“We’ve learned a little bit more about taking care of them, so we’re using high flow oxygen and we’re using the drug remdesivir, which is shortening their hospital stay."

Wyllie said under this new surge plan, there’s more need for regular nursing floor beds, rather than ICU beds.

County health officials noted in a news conference last week that hospital ICU use in the Cleveland area had eclipsed 80 percent. At Cleveland Clinic, however, operating at 80 percent capacity in the ICU is “fairly normal,” Wyllie said.

As hospitals have reopened and resumed elective procedures, more non-COVID patients are in the ICU, which could explain the rise in ICU bed utilization, he said.

University Hospitals is also seeing an increase in COVID-19 patients. Dr. Rana Hejal, ICU medical director at UH Cleveland Medical Center, said ICU beds are not yet at full capacity; however, officials have had to re-dedicate some hospital floors for COVID-19 patients.

“When we observed a little bit of a decrease, we started to open up a little bit more space for non-COVID-positive patients, but then when we started to increase, we backtracked again,” she said.

Non-COVID floors at the hospital are reaching capacity due to people who had put off medical treatment for other issues over the past few months, Hejal said.

“So patients, when they get sick, they are coming to the hospital a little bit sicker, not necessarily needing intensive care, but unfortunately, needing hospitalization,” she said.

MetroHealth System has also seen a recent uptick in activity in the Emergency Department with many people seeking tests who were possibly exposed to the virus seeking COVID-19 tests. Chair of Emergency Medicine Dr. Charles Emerman said there was an increase in COVID-19 admissions this past weekend, but there is adequate bed capacity at this time.

“We’re watching it, we’re concerned like everybody else, but we’re nowhere near being overwhelmed,” he said.

All three hospital systems have the ability to expand and add more beds in the event of a surge in sick patients, officials said.

If the county reaches a Level 4 health advisory, residents would be asked to only leave their homes for essential services and supplies.

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