A pop-up hospital to support the extra needs of Dallas County patients is nearing completion at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center.
Texas National Guard members from around the state unpacked a 250 bed Federal Medical Station kit Tuesday.
The load of large crates came with a variety of beds and equipment, like nursing and hand washing stations, to care for 250 patients.
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There is plenty of room for the hospital set up with all convention center events cancelled or postponed in the wake of coronavirus.
“What this hospital will be able to provide our medical community is very critical,” sad Dallas Emergency Management Director Rocky Vaz said.
Existing Dallas hospitals are deciding how best to use the extra capacity, which should be ready by Friday.
“We don’t have a date. We’re waiting on the hospitals to tell us, number one, what’s the mission, what type of patients do they want to see in that facility? And then tell us, give us 48 hours notice to be able to turn the hospital on,” Vaz said.
The hospital is an example of teamwork between the North Texas medical community and city, county and federal government.
A 225-member crew from the US Navy will staff the hospital when the Texas National Guard finishes putting it together. The U.S. Army Corp of Engineers selected the convention center site for the necessary open space. Former hospital buildings with narrow halls and small rooms would not work for this type of set up.
A temporary homeless shelter is also operating at the convention center in Exhibit Hall A with an entrance on the south side of the building. At the opposite end of the big convention center, the hospital is being set up in Exhibit Hall D with entrances on the north side.
Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins’ job includes the role of the county’s top emergency management official.
Jenkins said he did not want to wait until existing care options were overwhelmed to make the new hospital option available.
“I want to be aggressive,” Jenkins said. “If in two days, people aren’t getting the care that they need, let’s just pay the extra money and stand it up a day or two before, in case it is needed.”
In some cases, local taxpayers are expected to pay a quarter of the cost for federal programs like this, but financial details were not clear Tuesday.
Working on the set up Tuesday were 38 members of the Texas National Guard with 28 more on the way. Members will move on to another COVID-19 assignment once the hospital is ready.
Capt. Ryan Murrell said National Guard members would also return to tear down and remove the hospital, but no date has been set for that task.
More FMS kits could be shipped in to expand the convention center pop-up hospital for up to 1,400 patients if needed.