If you think our healthcare system has problems now, how do you think it will fare in the event of a Coronavirus pandemic? As we have already seen in China, their healthcare system is overwhelmed. Governments around the world are scrambling to find solutions to prevent this from happening in their own countries. New antivirals would take 6 months to get into high volume production and distributed to those who need it.
In the event of an Coronavirus pandemic, our healthcare system will be stretched to the limit. If we examine the numbers we can see the frightening scenario. Based on a “mild” pandemic this is what we are looking at:
Population of the United States: 295,000,000
10-20% of the population becomes ill: 29,500,000-59,000,000
Percentage of people requiring hospitalization 10% 2,950,000
Number of hospital beds nationwide: 955,768
Number of ventilators nationwide: 100,000
Some of those numbers may be conservative. The percentage of the population that becomes ill could be 30-50%. The number of available hospital beds would go unchanged. Now lets factor in the following facts. Hospitals would not be sitting empty just waiting for flu patients, many are already fill to capacity with everyday illnesses, cancer patients, new babies, and heart attack patients. Those would not go away, they would continue. Doctors offices, hospital emergency rooms and urgent care centers would be filled to capacity with people who are worried they have the flu overwhelming the staff and the need for lab results.
Those needing hospitalization would flood local hospitals that would have nowhere to put them. Most hospitals have very limited space for isolating patients that may be required in the case of influenza. Ventilators are in short supply to begin with and only those most likely to live would be given access. At some point hospitals would need to turn away all but the sickest patients. As in the 1918 influenza, public buildings would have to be open up for additional hospital wards to take care of the ill.
Are there even going to be enough healthcare workers to care for the sick? Many healthcare workers and first responders may stay home out of fear patients may infect them. A percentage will be out sick themselves or caring for family members who are ill. Even if they are not ill, they may need to stay home to take care of children because schools are closed.
There is no surge capacity for supplies such as syringes, IV bags, masks and antiviral drugs. Everything is based on just-in-time delivery. Because supplies of vaccines and antiviral drugs will be inadequate, large numbers of deaths will occur.
Hospitals around the nation are not set up to handle the capacity needed for an influenza pandemic and will be overwhelmed. Serious advanced planning is needed now to handle this potential pandemic crisis.