EASTON — As the most populous counties in Maryland continue to house more than 90% of the state’s confirmed COVID-19 cases, rural Eastern Shore hospitals with remaining surge capacity have stepped up to accommodate inundated hospitals’ patient overflow.
University of Maryland Shore Medical Center at Easton is among the Shore’s hospitals that have admitted COVID-19 patients from the western shore of Maryland, Talbot County Health Officer Dr. Fredia Wadley confirmed in an email Wednesday, April 22.
Trena Williamson, a spokesperson for Shore Regional Health, declined to say from which jurisdictions the patients came or how many the rural hospitals expect to take in.
Though she confirmed that because SRH is part of University of Maryland Medical System’s 13-hospital partnership, its facilities will “care for patients from around the state as the pandemic surge occurs.”
Wadley said it would be difficult to determine whether bringing confirmed infected patients from other areas into the lesser impacted region’s hospitals poses an enhanced risk to its residents and health care workers.
“There is a natural tendency to worry about bringing in confirmed cases from another area,” she said. “Nevertheless, there are already confirmed cases in our hospital in Easton that require staff to use personal protective equipment and practices to prevent spread of the virus.”
Wadley said Maryland “is trying to take care of all its residents during this pandemic,” and the hospital system’s ability to spread its patient weight across the state will ensure that hospitals don’t get overwhelmed and patients get optimum care.
When asked whether the admittance of out-of-area patients could threaten to take away resources and medically trained personnel from locals who might need COVID-19 care, Wadley said the hospitals aren’t “going to accept enough patients to put their own community in jeopardy of not having a bed when needed.”
“Maybe we should be asking ourselves, ‘If I were infected with COVID-19 and Shore hospitals were overwhelmed with cases, would I want a hospital in another area to find a bed for me?’” the health officer said.
Wadley said she would “worry more” if a hospital had spare beds and declined to take in a patient because they weren’t from that facility’s county or region.
Dr. David Marcozzi, associate professor and associate chairman of public health at the UMMS Department of Emergency Medicine, and a member of Gov. Larry Hogan’s coronavirus task force, visited the Easton hospital Wednesday, April 15.
Marcozzi called the fight against COVID-19 in Maryland “truly an all-hands-on-deck, unified effort across the Shore hospitals and across our System.”
As of Wednesday morning, April 22, the Eastern Shore accounted for 3.5% of Maryland’s confirmed coronavirus infections, with 521 of the state’s 14,775 reported cases.