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VCU Health requests 460 beds to combat COVID-19 pandemic

VCU Health is working to expand its licensed capacity by almost 500 hospital beds in anticipation of a surge of COVID-19 cases.
Posted at 4:10 PM, Mar 26, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-26 18:09:06-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- VCU Health has begun work to add hundreds of additional hospital beds in anticipation of a surge of patients during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Letters requesting authorization to expand its licensed capacity by 460 beds were submitted to the state health commissioner and director of the Virginia Department of Health, the university announced Thursday.

“We are preparing to save lives,” VCU and VCU Health System President Dr. Michael Rao said in a statement. “We are marshaling all of our university and health system resources to prepare to meet the needs of Virginians.”

Currently, there are 779 licensed acute care beds at VCU Medical Center’s MCV Campus and 70 licensed acute care beds at VCU Community Memorial Hospital, according to Pamela Lepley, Vice President for University Relations.

The university notified students by email on Thursday it was transforming the Honors College dorm rooms at 701 West Grace Street into overflow housing for potential patients amid the COVID-19 outbreak.

The Honors College once served as a hospital before it was converted into student housing.

A cell phone video posted on social media Wednesday showed workers quickly removing student’s belongings. The video has since been deleted, but screen recordings continue to circulate.

“[The worker] goes into a couple of people’s rooms where their stuff was just laying on their bed,” said freshman Riley Layman, an Honors College student who watched the video. “Boxes and beds were all up against the walls.”

Students were originally told to take essential items home and they could come back later to get their things when the university first closed due to COVID-19. The school said the belongings were boxed up and students can retrieve them from a Williamsburg Road storage facility beginning on April 10.

Officials planned to add up to 150 additional beds at multiple facilities on VCU Medical Center’s downtown campus, as well as up to 130 beds at the former Community Memorial Hospital facility in South Hill.

Convirmed novel coronavirus cases have overwhelmed hospitals in Europe and in larger U.S. metropolitan areas like in New York City and Atlanta.

“We are proactively redeploying key staff and facilities to enable the necessary expansion of our clinical care to be as responsive as we can to this public health crisis,” said Peter Buckley, M.D., interim CEO of VCU Health System. “We are proud of the concerted efforts of all our colleagues to prepare our teams and ready up our facilities. We also are grateful to our community and state leadership for enabling these swift and entirely necessary transitions so we are ready to serve our community through this unprecedented public health challenge.”