Aurora Hospitals Lack Beds To Handle Expected Coronavirus Cases

This article originally appeared on the Aurora Patch

AURORA, IL — Aurora-area hospitals would be overwhelmed with patients suffering from the new coronavirus under most likely scenarios for infection rates, according to a ProPublica report based on data from the Harvard Global Health Institute.

The report underscores the seriousness of the need to “flatten the curve” through social distancing, which health officials hope will slow the spread of the disease and keep hospital caseloads manageable. But even in what experts consider a moderate rate of infection, ProPublica reported, Aurora-area hospitals could meet less than half of the demand for beds.

Illinois has recorded 1,285 confirmed cases and 12 deaths as of Monday afternoon.

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Gov. J.B. Pritzker has put a stay-at-home order in place in an attempt to stunt the increase in cases. But some fear those measures will not be enough before hospitals in the Aurora area run out of beds.

According to ProPublica, as of 2018, the Aurora region had 530 total hospital beds, of which about 46 percent were occupied, potentially leaving only 290 beds open for additional patients. The bed count includes 55 beds in intensive care units, according to data from the American Hospital Association and the American Hospital Directory. Intensive care units are best equipped to handle the most acute coronavirus cases.

The Aurora region has a population of about 341,000 residents, 10 percent of whom are over the age of 65. The experience in other countries has shown that elderly patients have significantly higher hospitalization and fatality rates from the new coronavirus.

In the moderate scenario, in which 40 percent of the adult population contracts the disease over 12 months, Aurora would be among the regions that would need to expand capacity. It is estimated that about 8 percent of the adult population would require hospital care.

In the same moderate scenario, hospitals in Aurora would receive an estimated 20,000 coronavirus patients. The influx of patients would require 670 beds over 12 months, which is 2.3 times the number of beds available during that time period. The Harvard researchers’ scenarios assume that each coronavirus patient will require 12 days of hospital care on average, based on data from China.

In the Aurora region, intensive care units would be especially overwhelmed and require additional capacity. Without coronavirus patients, on average, there are only 25 beds available in intensive care units at any given time, which is less than a fifth of the beds needed to care for the estimated number of severe cases.

Hospitals in the Aurora area include Rush Copley Medical Center in Aurora, Edward Hospital in Naperville and Northwestern Medicine Delnor Hospital in Geneva.

Rush Copley did not immediately respond to a voicemail for comment Monday afternoon.

During a recent press conference, Dr. Robert Citronberg, director of infectious diseases at Advocate Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge, said that limited resources are “a problem that is affecting every single health care system in the country right now.”

He went on to emphasize the importance of everyone practicing social distancing to prevent the spread of coronavirus. Citronberg said, “It starts preventing infection the day you start social distancing.”

ProPublica, a Patch Partner, is a nonprofit newsroom that investigates abuses of power and other public concerns. Click here to see ProPublica’s full story and specifics about hospitals in your area.

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