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'A great scenario': Empty beds at the Convention Center field hospital

There are currently 1,000 beds in place for COVID-19 patients. Most of those beds are empty.

NEW ORLEANS — It’s been about three weeks since the convention center in downtown New Orleans was quickly turned into a field hospital to help take on the expected surge of COVID-19 patients. 

Thankfully that surge didn’t happen to the extent it could have, but the facility still plays a role and will continue to do so.

There are currently 1,000 beds in place for COVID-19 patients. Most of those beds are empty. 

“That’s a great scenario. That’s what we want to see,” said Dr. Meghan Maslanka who is the medical operations manager.

When the convention center was turned into a field hospital to treat overflow patients from medical hospitals, Maslanka says it was tough to know what to expect, but one thing was certain.

“Good patient care is our priority there,” said Maslanka.

As of Monday afternoon, there were 75 COVID-19 positive patients inside the convention center. They don’t require hospitalization, but for whatever reason are unable to go home. Across the street, a group of trailers with 265 beds for folks believed to have COVID-19 but waiting on test results. As of Monday, only two people were being housed. No matter the numbers, Jovan Bernard, who works as a deputy incident commander, is focused on care. 

“It doesn’t matter if we have one, 75 or 1,000. We’re still here. We still provide the same quality of care,” said Bernard.

On Good Friday the Archbishop of New Orleans even made a visit to offer blessings to service members and health care workers. A second hospital was also in the works, but according to President Trump Monday, it’s not needed.

 “They had a thousand rooms, a thousand beds, and they used a lot of them, but they didn’t’ need the other one, as we stopped it because we don’t want to waste,” said President Trump.

While the number of patients inside the convention center is relatively low in comparison to the number it could be, that doesn’t mean the concern goes away. The plan for an additional 1,000 beds on top of what’s already inside is still in play, because who knows what’s going to happen when the city reopens.

Dr. Maslanka says that could mean another surge in cases and those beds are being built for standby.

“What we are is prepared because if we get that surge, we’re ready,” said Maslanka.

Adapting to change, the convention center no longer accepts patients strictly from inpatient settings. Maslanka say patients can now be referred from any healthcare setting. 

“It became obvious that opening up to clinic patients, to nursing homes, to urgent cares, to emergency departments would be a benefit,” said Maslanka.

As long as the need exists, Maslanka says the doors will be open for patients.

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