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Ohio Hospitals Have a Plan to Work Together to Ensure Capacity for COVID Surge

Cleveland Clinic Akron General
Jeff St. Clair
Akron General has tapped some of the beds in its new ER to increase ICU capacity.

ICU space and in-patient hospital bed availability is nearing capacity in Summit and Cuyahoga counties. But there is a plan in place to ensure that hospitals don’t run out of space.

According to the state’s public health advisory dashboard, as of late last week, ICU’s in Cuyahoga County were at 82% of capacity. In Summit it was at 83%.

However, Ohio Hospitals Association spokesman John Palmer says there are a number of safeguards, including one that’s been in place for almost 20 years, where hospitals in Ohio’s 88 counties have been grouped into eight regions under a Hospital Preparedness Program.

“Well that’s why hospitals, when it comes to a pandemic and emergency response planning, can’t work in a vacuum," Palmer said. "They work collaboratively with all other providers and health care congregate care settings.”

For the past month, Cleveland Clinic Akron General has been near or at capacity in its critical care units. Hospital president Dr. Brian Harte says the pandemic has put a lot of pressure on the hospital and its staff, but they’re making sure everyone is getting the care they need.

Dr. Brian Harte
Jeff St. Clair
Dr. Brian Harte is president of Cleveland Clinic Akron General.

“We’ve used beds, at times, in our emergency department as overflow for the ICU, and as some folks know, we’ve helped create some capacity at least within the Cleveland Clinic health system by foregoing a modest number of surgeries over the past few weeks,” Harte said.

He says that while hospitals are traditionally competitors, he’s gratified by how the members of the Akron Regional Hospital Association have bonded together to address the pandemic through sharing best practices, visitation policies, and supplies of personal protection equipment. He says it’s a relationship that’s continued to grow.

Palmer says hospitals around the state are communicating and coordinating on a daily basis about their capacity. And the state has identified three zones, with plans to set up additional hospital capacity in Cleveland, Columbus and Cincinnati, if needed.