A law that requires hospitals to petition the Minnesota legislature before adding more beds may result in critical shortages as the COVID-19 epidemic continues.
Since 1984, Minnesota’s Hospital Construction Moratorium (Statute 144.551) has artificially capped the number of beds that hospitals in the state can maintain. This rule bars hospitals from increasing their capacity unless specifically allowed by the Minnesota Department of Health and the state legislature.
The moratorium will have the greatest effect if Minnesota’s ICU beds are filled with COVID-19 patients, a situation Governor Tim Walz has said spoken fearfully about several times in recent weeks. He’s also warned that his state only has 243 ICU beds, according to WJON.
A statewide ICU capacity of 243 will not be nearly enough according to the University of Minnesota that predicts the coronavirus will render 5,000 Minnesotans in need of intensive care, reports the Post Bulletin. More conservative estimates predict a need for 1,000 ICU beds.
While officials are now scrambling to prepare more hospital beds, in stadiums and hotels according to a local US News, actual hospitals may have been more prepared already if not for a state-imposed cap on the number of beds they can maintain.
“It’s impossible to know if we would have been more prepared for coronavirus patients without the Hospital Construction Moratorium, but it certainly didn’t help says John Phelan, an economist at Center of the American Experiment.
“It’s taken a global pandemic to realize that many state government regulations are artificial and created for the benefit of special interest groups, not consumers,” he adds. “In Minnesota, the Hospital Construction Moratorium should be the first regulation kicked to the curb.”
Minnesota has reported 629 cases of COVID-19 resulting in 12 deaths as of March 31, according to the Star Tribune.