St. Joseph’s Health plans to open 154 acute-care medical beds at the former Barnert Hospital building in Paterson in two weeks in an effort to meet the anticipated surge of patients from the coronavirus pandemic.
The announcement comes two days after Gov. Phil Murphy warned that New Jersey hospitals could run out of intensive care beds in April. St. Joseph’s said the added in-patient beds at Barnert will allow its Paterson and Wayne hospitals to convert regular medical units into critical care.
“We’re fast-tracking this effort to immediately bring additional hospital beds into the fight against the virus,” said Kevin J. Slavin, President and CEO of St. Joseph’s Health.
New Jersey has about 20,000 hospital beds — 18,000 for medical and surgical patients, and 2,000 for critical care patients. Even with the state’s strict stay-at-home orders, health officials predicted Monday that an additional 12,000 beds will be needed as the crisis worsens.
“The primary hospitals will become large critical care units,” state health commissioner Judith Persichilli said Monday. “We will be decanting non-critical patients to lower levels of care — field hospitals, reopened general hospitals — and increasing our additional bed capacity.”
Barnert, which is located on Broadway in the northeastern section of Paterson, had shut down as a hospital in 2008 and has functioned as a medical services building in recent years. Among its tenants are Family of Caring, which operates a subacute rehabilitation center at the site; and Turning Point, which runs in-patient substance abuse treatment programs there. Both of those programs are relocating to accommodate the hospital beds, officials said.
Paterson has seen its number of coronavirus cases increase by more than 67% in just the past several days. On Sunday, Paterson had 225 confirmed positive cases, according to the city health department. By Tuesday, that figured jumped to 376, officials said. There had been four deaths in the city as of Tuesday.
“I applaud the efforts of everyone involved in this heroic effort. We can’t afford to have our hospital be overburdened,” said Paterson Mayor Andre Sayegh. “It’s remarkable after being closed all these years Barnert Hospital is going to play a pivotal role in our war with this virus.”