Twin Cities metro hospitals add beds, prep for surge of COVID-19 patients

At Abbott Northwestern, the hospital is converting spaces to make more room for isolated ICU beds.

Twin Cities hospitals are preparing for an upcoming surge of patients in need of care due to the novel coronavirus outbreak.

Dr. John Hick, the Medical Director for Emergency Preparedness at Hennepin Healthcare in Minneapolis, says he believes this week will likely will be a quiet one for metro area hospitals. Based on the way coronavirus is spreading in the community, he expects hospitals to see an impact in early April. 

“The math is relentless,” said Dr. John Hick of Hennepin Healthcare. “The cases in the community are going to double at least, every five days. So no matter what we keep the cases down to, it’s going to just keep increasing pretty rapidly.”

The emergency preparedness team is also adding ICU bed space. So far, HCMC has not had a COVID-19 patient hospitalized at their facility, but Dr. Hick says he believes it’s just a matter of time.

At Abbott Northwestern in Minneapolis, Director of Facilities Steve Waderich gave FOX 9 a tour of spaces the hospital is converting into isolated ICU beds for the expected arrival of COVID-19 patients.

Abbott Northwestern has added about 63 total rooms for ill patients, including a pod in the hospital’s heart unit.

Due to how the disease spreads in the air, air quality remains vitally important for fellow patients and the medical professionals working in the units. On the tour, FOX 9 saw heavy duty fans and air filtration systems.

“We’ve been through H1N1, Ebola, been through SARS, all these types of events that we’ve actually planned for over the years,” said Waderich.

Plans are also in the work to create alternative health care facilities, so that hospitals don't get overrun, according to Homeland Security and Emergency Management Director Joe Kelly.