NewsHealth / March 31, 2020

St. Joseph County, Indiana Repurposing Hotels, Former Hospitals To Prepare For Surge In COVID-19

Original story from   WVPE-FM

Article origination WVPE-FM
Medical personnel work on preparing to open a 68 bed emergency field hospital specially equipped with a respiratory unit in New York's Central Park, Tuesday, March 31, 2020, in New York. - AP Photo/Mary Altaffer

Medical personnel work on preparing to open a 68 bed emergency field hospital specially equipped with a respiratory unit in New York's Central Park, Tuesday, March 31, 2020, in New York.

AP Photo/Mary Altaffer

The St. Joseph County Health Department is preparing for a possible surge in COVID-19 hospitalizations. Local officials are trying to repurpose non-hospital facilities to care for less critical patients.

Hotels, dorms, and vacant health care facilities could soon be turned into makeshift hospitals.

Deputy Health Officer Mark Fox said this is to make room in area hospitals in case of a surge in patients with COVID-19

“We have to have space for all the usual patients in St. Joseph County that are having babies and heart attacks and get admitted to the hospital for other reasons," Fox said. "We also need to be prepared to take care of patients with the COVID-19 infection.”

Fox said the hospitals in St. Joseph County have room for more patients as of right now, since they’ve stopped doing elective procedures.

He said preparing other facilities to handle patients is a precautionary measure.

Fox said it’s not easy to set-up these makeshift hospital locations.

“It’s not simply a function of having a bed for someone to be in," he said. "It’s a combination of a bed, with the right equipment to meet the medical needs of the patient.”

Fox said creating space for patients in a place already partially equipped with medical supplies would be easiest. The county is looking at repurposing a rehabilitation hospital in Mishawaka set to open next month for excess patients.

He said vacant hospitals like the old Kindred Hospital in Mishawaka could also be an option. It has room for roughly 160 beds.

The last option would be hotels, dorm rooms, and community centers.  Fox said it's hard to tell exactly when there will be the peak in COVID-19 cases in the county, but it could be as early as mid-April or as late at May.

Contact Annacaroline at acaruso@wvpe.org or follow her on Twitter at @AnnacarolineC16

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