With coronavirus spreading rapidly across the United States, hospitals are preparing for an influx of patients with the growing concern that they may not be able to serve all who need treatment.

As the United States only has 2.8 hospital beds per 1,000 people, many hospitals are not properly equipped to handle a large number of coronavirus patients. At Lawrence Memorial Hospital, however, there are procedures put in place for these situations, said LMH Director of Communications Amy Northrop.

“LMH Health has regular procedures in place to handle an increase in patient volumes due to widespread illness,” Northrop said in an email to the Kansan. “LMH Health also works closely with Lawrence-Douglas County Public Health and other local and state agencies to ensure we continue to provide the very best and safest care to our patients.”

As the coronavirus pandemic continues to affect communities, Northrop said LMH has the funding necessary to maintain their work. Additionally, the hospital is prepared to care for patients, regardless of their ability to pay, she said. 

“LMH Health has a strong balance sheet that allows us to serve the healthcare needs of the community, regardless of an individual's ability to pay,” Northrop said in the email. 

The University of Kansas Hospital has also begun preparing for an influx of new coronavirus patients. 

“Today we are preparing for a large number of patients that might need care, but we have no capacity restraints at the moment. That emergency preparedness plan does allow us to significantly increase our capacity to take care of patients in our hospital if we need to,” Dr. David Wild, vice president of Performance Improvement at the University of Kansas Health System said. “So, at this point, there’s no limitations, no capacity restraints.” 

University of Kansas Medical Center spokesperson Jill Jensen Chadwick also said that 80% of the patients who become infected will be able to recover at home in house confinement, 20% will need some level of care at a hospital, and 5% will need the highest level of care.

LMH encountered its first potential coronavirus victim on Jan. 28. The patient showed symptoms of a respiratory illness, but coronavirus tests came back negative.

The University’s hospital began treating a coronavirus patient on March 8. The hospital said the patient is being treated in a special area to avoid spreading the virus to others at the hospital.

Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly announced on Thursday, March 12, that the first coronavirus-related death in Kansas was a 70 year-old man in Wyandotte County. As of Saturday, March 21, there are 55 coronavirus cases and one related death in Kansas. 

“LMH Health encourages persons with symptoms or who may have had contact or did have contact with someone with a laboratory confirmed case of COVID-19, to stay home and call their primary care physician first,” Northrop said in the email.