Health care facilities around the country are scrambling to deal with the influx of Covid-19 patients, but hospitals on Cape Cod are better off than most.
A recent study by the Harvard Global Health Institute and ProPublica suggests that 40 percent of the American adult population in every community is likely to contract the virus over the next 12 months. The permanent population of Barnstable County as of 2017 was 213,444, according to the U.S. Census. That would mean roughly 85,000 people in the county will contract the virus over the next year.
About one-fifth of those infected are expected to need hospitalization, and about one-fifth of those hospitalized will need intensive care. This means about 17,000 people will seek hospital care in Barnstable County for Covid-19; about 3,400 of them will require an ICU bed.
The average hospital stay for someone infected with Covid-19 is one week, according to ProPublica. These estimates predict roughly 328 people seeking care per week, with 65 needing ICU care.
Cape Cod and Falmouth hospitals have 354 beds between them, according to the American Hospital Directory. In response to the coronavirus outbreak, Cape Cod Healthcare (CCH) has set up three “stand-up” hospitals at Joint Base Cape Cod, the Royal Falmouth nursing center, and the Wingate nursing home in Brewster. Among the three locations, CCH has added 320 new beds.
Both hospitals are running at about 50 percent capacity, according to CCH president Mike Lauf. This means Barnstable County will have about 497 available beds to accommodate an anticipated 328 new Covid-19 patients every week.
For ICU beds, however, the situation is not as reassuring.
Hospitals on the Cape have a total of 34 ICU beds to accommodate an expected 64 weekly patients requiring them. None of the 320 new beds are ICU beds.
The estimated number of weekly patients requiring ICU care does not take into account the fact that Barnstable County has the oldest average age in Massachusetts. About 35 percent of residents are over 60 and more likely to require intensive care should they contract the virus.
Nevertheless, Cape hospitals are better off than elsewhere in Massachusetts.
The Harvard-ProPublica study investigated the preparedness of hospitals in all 306 hospital referral regions (HRR) in the U.S. The Boston HRR includes the counties of Middlesex, Essex, Norfolk, Suffolk, Bristol, Plymouth, Barnstable, and Dukes.
Excluding data from Barnstable County, the Boston HRR is expected to receive about 4,807 coronavirus cases every week for which it has about 2,550 available beds. And Boston needs 5.5 times the number of ICU beds it currently has to accommodate the expected influx of critically ill patients, according to ProPublica.
As of April 9, Cape Cod and Falmouth hospitals had a total of 35 Covid-19 patients, 10 of which were in ICU care.
These figures indicate that the Cape has not yet experienced the predicted surge of patients. But after more than doubling the number of hospital beds on the Cape, the county is far more prepared than other counties if the surge comes.