Memphis COVID-19 overflow hospital closes without ever seeing a patient
MEMPHIS, Tennessee (WMC) – The $ 51.3 million COVID-19 overflow hospital in Memphis has closed permanently.
The former Commercial Appeal building on Union Avenue was converted to a field hospital last year to relieve pressure on area hospitals in case they were overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients.
But he never saw a single patient. Another field hospital in Nashville also remained empty.
Tennessee Governor Bill Lee says it’s a good thing.
“When early predictions pointed to a worst-case scenario where each state would exceed its capacity for COVID-19 patients, we took immediate action in Tennessee to address the potential shortfall,” Lee said. “The alternative care sites in Tennessee have provided our health care system with a margin of safety and luckily we did not need to open either site.”
In the spring of 2020, as pandemic infections rose rapidly in the Mid-South, state officials worried about the ability of hospitals to cope with the influx of patients.
In April 2020, Tennessee received a declaration of major disaster. It made federal funding available for COVID-19 response measures, including alternative care sites for COVID-19 patients.
Dr Scott Strome, executive dean of UTHSC’s College of Medicine, said that was when state leaders called for a request he never expected to hear.
“The state called and said ‘would you help us build a field hospital?’ I have to say I wasn’t sure exactly what that involved, but our answer was yes, ”Strome said.
More than $ 51 million has been invested in transforming the former Commercial Appeal building into a 400-bed COVID-19 alternative care site.
“We thought we were going to face a bed capacity challenge. What we found ourselves facing was largely a staff capacity challenge, especially as our frontline workers fell ill with COVID, ”Strome said.
But at $ 51.3 million, many are calling it a waste of money.
Dr. Strome disagrees.
“It’s easy to say, you know July, August 2021,” Strome said. “It’s much more difficult to make that call when the state has made that call. It was, in my opinion, the right thing to do, and I’m glad we didn’t need it.
Tennessee is eligible to receive reimbursement from the federal government for the cost of building and maintaining this field hospital. The state returned the building to its owners.
Strome says the partnerships that have developed from the construction of the hospital will be beneficial.
“We have established a very strong connection with the city and with the county, as well as with the state, and some of those connections with the city are paying off in ways you might not have otherwise imagined “said Strome.
He cited as an example a neighborhood health program that UTHSC is working on with the City of Memphis.
All medical equipment and supplies assigned to the field hospital were returned to the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency (TEMA) warehouse for inventory.
“The Memphis and Nashville sites are models of what the public and private sectors can accomplish by working together,” said Patrick Sheehan, director of TEMA. “We will use this success to plan for other emergencies that could impact our health care system. “
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