Newport This Week

Testing Tent Opens at Newport Hospital

As the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases continues to rise in Newport County, officials say hospitals are preparing for the possibility of a surge in patients.

Newport Hospital is licensed for 129 beds, according to Lifespan spokesman Richard Salit. In preparation of a potential surge, some elective procedures and ambulatory visits have been delayed, he said.

“The daily [bed count] varies from day to day,” said Salit. “However, the inpatient and outpatient activity are substantially lower than usual.”

Although some states are taking inventory of retired health care professionals to augment staff, Rhode Island has not taken that step.

“Newport Hospital and Lifespan have adequate staffing for our current census, and plans in place for any surge in patients. There are no formal plans to rely on retired medical practitioners,” said Salit.

However, the plans are evolving as the situation continues to change.

“Following national and state guidelines, Newport Hospital, and all Lifespan facilities, are working jointly with the Rhode Island Department of Health in refining surge plans,” said Salit.

State health officials painted an optimistic picture for the local healthcare system.

“In general, our hospitals are in a decent place,” said Rhode Island Department of Health spokesman Joseph Wendelken. “We don’t have many COVID cases in our hospitals now. Fortunately, we have not had any fatalities.”

It remains unclear if the state will seek out additional facilities, such as hotels, to increase capacity, similar to what New York officials are scrambling to establish.

“We are evaluating a range of options. We are looking at facilities,” said Wendelken.

Beginning Thursday, March 26, a tent erected at Newport Hospital will be used for patients to be swabbed for coronavirus testing. Testing will only be performed on patients with prior authorization and instructions from RIDOH, officials said. Unauthorized individuals will not be permitted to enter the area.

As of March 25, the state has been testing around 150 people daily. Similar to testing constraints across the country, Rhode Island’s capacity to test is limited by the nationwide shortage of critical supplies and reagents.

On a local level, the Newport Fire Department coordinates with Newport Hospital daily as part of their regular protocol. Newport city officials will also hold weekly meetings with the hospital to specifically address the outbreak.

“We are taking direction from the Rhode Island Emergency Management Agency,” said Newport Communications Officer Tom Shevlin. “There is a very structured chain of command during a state of emergency.”

When asked if the city is concerned about the limited capacity at Newport Hospital, Shevlin said the state Emergency Management Agency coordinates a regional response, augmenting local resources if a surge occurs.

Donations to Newport Hospital may be made online at giving. or by calling the Newport Hospital Foundation at 401- 845-1617. Detailed information about donating masks or making masks is available

State Emergency Management Agency coordinates a regional response, augmenting local resources if a surge occurs.

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