Newport Hospital has not yet maxed out, but it is running a little over 90 percent capacity. The hospital has roughly 106 operational beds, and about 100 are currently occupied.

But of those patients, only 10 percent have COVID-19. Chief Medical Officer Jeffrey Gaines said that figure differs from some Providence-based hospitals, which are seeing more than double that.

“From a COVID standpoint, we’ve been fortunate that we’ve been a little bit protected down on the island,” Gaines said. “The number of patients in our ICU and critical care has been very, very small.”

Newport Hospital has surge plans in place that could involve expanding capacity by putting patients in unconventional areas, but it has not reached that point yet. Gaines said the hospital also has not needed state assistance for staffing, or sent any patients to the Lifespan-operated field hospital that opened this week at the Rhode Island Convention Center.

Gaines said that, as of Wednesday, Newport Hospital is prepared to accommodate more COVID-19 patients, if necessary. Between the hospital’s ICU and less-severe COVID-19 area, they have space to treat 30 patients with COVID-19. The hospital has recently been caring for, on average, 10 patients with COVID-19.

So what is contributing to Newport Hospital's higher patient numbers, if not just COVID-19 patients? Gaines said, in part, his staff is seeing more patients who had time-sensitive medical events and delayed treatment earlier this year.

“We’re seeing a lot more of that in our in-patient rehab setting,” Gaines said. “Patients are having other non-COVID medical events that — for whatever reason, whether they weren’t able to get in or they were nervous about it. [They’re] having more disability, and therefore requiring more rehabilitation.”

Anitra Galmore, chief nursing officer at South County Health, said South County Hospital in Wakefield, is also not currently at capacity. If a surge changes that, she said, staff members plan to work with the governor’s Healthcare Coordination Center to divert patients not requiring hospitalization to alternative behavioral health and rehabilitation facilities.

"This will free up beds for patients who do need that level of [hospital] care," Galmore said by email.

Many hospital staff members have also been cross-trained in areas that may not be part of their primary duties, Galmore said, in order to increase flexibility in treating COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 patients.  

"This helps us to move staff to wherever there is a greater need," she said. "We’ve optimized our patient placement...to coordinate focused care to those patients who are COVID positive and those who are not."

Westerly Hospital, which serves patients in southern Rhode Island and southeastern Connecticut, is also not at capacity but seeing an increase in COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 patients, said Oliver Mayorga, the hospital's chief medical officer.

Mayorga said staff members have mostly addressed a backlog of patients who delayed care earlier in the pandemic.

“We're doing okay," Mayorga said in an email. "Staff are tired but hanging in there."


This story has been updated.