The state says hospitalizations with, but not for, COVID are a minority.
Following up on a question I sent to the state Department of Health, spokesman Joseph Wendelken tells me that instances of people being hospitalized while testing positive for COVID, but for whom COVID is entirely unrelated to the reason they’re in the hospital, account for only about 6% of the number.
The question gained increased prominence in Rhode Island as Christmas break approached and Kent Hospital Chief of Emergency Medicine Laura Forman told National Public Radio that the virus was spreading like “wildfire,” and “even patients who are coming in after car accidents or with ankle sprains are testing positive.”
According to Wendelken, “someone who goes to the hospital for another reason but is COVID-19 positive would not get admitted unless that other health issue was dire.” After “a closer clinical analysis on the charts of a subset of patients,” the DOH came to the conclusion that the virus “played a role ” in the conditions of 94% of patients testing positive for COVID.
Applying that percentage to the latest data from the DOH, of the 325 people currently listed as “hospitalized with COVID,” the virus would be deemed entirely incidental for about 20.
Nonetheless, the need for Rhode Islanders to postpone procedures because they are not “dire” must be counted among the costs of the current condition of our health care system. Though seasonally elevated, the number of COVID patients in Rhode Island is still down considerably from this point last year. If patients who would otherwise have been admitted are being turned away, then one would expect hospitals to have excess capacity, rather than experiencing a crisis.
I’ve asked if the state has a sense of how many patients are being turned away and whether patients for whom COVID is a factor in their illness are also not being admitted unless they are in dire circumstances.
Featured image by Vladimir Fedotov on Unsplash.