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HOK’s Scott Rawlings and Dr. Andrew Ibrahim on Accommodating the Rise of COVID-19 Patients

As the number of COVID-19 cases in the United States soars, Architectural Digest interviews two members of HOK’s Healthcare group about the best ways to move forward in treating the surge in patients.

Excerpted from Architectural Digest:

“Considering the ways we can increase hospital capacity right now is incredibly important,” says Dr. Andrew Ibrahim, a surgeon at the University of Michigan and chief medical officer for the Healthcare group at HOK. “But building more hospitals shouldn’t be our first response.” According to Ibrahim, the national response to limit travel and large public gatherings has been essential. These decisions will reduce the number of people who contract the virus in the coming weeks and months. Logically, the fewer confirmed patients, the less need for additional hospital beds. In the meantime, health care professional are adapting to the new requirements that are expected of them during these dire times. “Hospitals are quickly learning they have more flexible capacity than previously thought. Many clinic visits are converting to telehealth visits, made easier now that elective procedures are being rescheduled or canceled, and lower risk procedures are moving to other smaller facilities—thereby freeing up capacity at the main hospitals,” says Ibrahim. “Areas of the hospital taken up by these services can potentially be converted to meet coronavirus treatment demands. For example, an operating room for elective procedures could potentially become an intensive care bed, as it already contains a mechanical ventilator and appropriate air circulation.”

“The number of people who get the virus over the next few weeks and months will be the difference in our hospitals being able to handle the clinical demand,” Ibrahim adds. “In the next two weeks we will have a much better sense of how well we have slowed the spread of the virus, to gauge whether our existing hospital capacity will be adequate.”

Hospitals and makeshift treatment centers will require several crucial elements to treat COVID-19 patients, particularly those with respiratory failure. “Sick patients will require rooms that can be isolated with negative air flow circulation to keep the air coming in, not leaving the room,” says Scott Rawlings, a global director of Healthcare for HOK. “We will also require mechanical ventilators and personal protective equipment (also referred to as PPE) to ensure that health care workers do not become infected while taking care of patients. We are already seeing a shortage of PPE, and there is concern that a similar problem may occur with hospital ventilators.”

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