NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – In an effort to get more hospital beds in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic some closed rural hospitals may reopen.

Thirteen county hospitals have been shut down in recent years leaving too many Tennesseans vulnerable, according to Democratic state leaders. They say that space is needed and it’s needed now.

“It will become clear that we have to have every hospital open, every clinic open, every resource directed against this incredible challenge to our state,” said Rep. Mike Stewart. 

He and Senator Jeff Yarbro agree Tennessee shouldn’t be in this position. 

“I think there is no question that the state’s decision over the recent years has accelerated and expedited those hospital closures,” Yarbro explained. 

However, he says it’s not a time to blame but a time to take action.

“It’s a time to figure out what we are going to do going forward and right now we have those facilities, we need to figure out what we can do to get them equipped, to get them staffed and to make sure they can take patients for treatment,” said Yarbro. 

Governor Bill Lee issued an executive order that changes the regulatory rules around hospital beds. He said once it’s signed we will have access to additional beds and that some of those will likely come from those rural hospitals that are closed. 

“We are in the process of assessing where those beds are and if we can utilize those. We have about double the capacity of available licensed beds in this state than what we are currently using. It’s actually over double capacity. They are not all staff, in fact the majority of the excess capacity is not staffed for obvious reasons and that’s a challenge that we will be meeting in the day’s ahead,” the Governor explained.

Tennessee’s legislature has recessed until June 1st.