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County exploring all possible locations for pop-up field hospital

Posted at 4:46 PM, Apr 01, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-01 22:32:34-04

SAN DIEGO COUNTY (KGTV)-- With an increasing number of COVID-19 patients, San Diego County is beginning to feel the shortage of hospital beds. The County is now working with the State of California to look at all possible options for emergency field hospitals.

Pop-up hospitals are sprouting up across the nation, both at sea and on land. At New York's Javits Convention Center and iconic Central Park, workers are posting up an emergency medical tents to keep up with the growing demand.

In California, Governor Gavin Newsome announced that San Diego was selected as one of several cities to get an Army Field Hospital. County officials are now working with the Army Corps of Engineers to iron out the details.

"That would be a regional asset," District 4 County Supervisor, Nathan Fletcher said. "Regardless of where it is placed, it would be 250 beds of hospital capacity that would serve the entire region."

Many are now wondering if the old Palomar Medical Center in Escondido could become that regional asset. A spokesman at Palomar Health said that the hospital itself had already been sold to developer, Integral Communities. But it has a lease until the Summer of this year. Right now, it is primarily being used for behavioral health needs. But it is slated to be turned into a 510-unit housing development.

When 10News asked about the old hospital becoming the regional pop-up hospital, the spokesman said, "Right now, it is still a hypothetical. But we are in the discussions." If ordered by the State to transition into a field hospital, they will "make all our resources available."

What is already in the works is converting empty UC San Diego dorm rooms into a COVID-19 transition space.

"Because there are no students there, we will create an alternate care center," Fletcher said. "This will be staffed with a combination of nurses, along with potential telemedicine connection to doctors."

The idea is to use dorms for people who still need some medical treatment, but are not quite ready to go home.

The County has also requested the State for another, 25-bed, fully-staffed field hospital in San Diego County. No word on if or when that will be approved.