Plans move forward to deconstruct COVID-19 field hospitals, but what if there’s another surge?

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WLNE) – Rhode Island is making major changes in the fight against COVID-19.

Two of the three field hospitals originally built to take in COVID patients in the event of a surge will be deconstructed. Those plans were unveiled in a state properties committee meeting Tuesday morning.

“The State has opted to decommission the other two sites, the alternative hospital sites,” John Ryan, the Deputy Chief at DCAMM said. “One of them being on Davisville and the other being the Rhode Island Convention Center.”

The State hopes to break down one of the hospitals by October 31 and the other by December 31. However, committee members approved the vote to extend the lease at the Cranston Alternative Hospital, meaning it can remain open until this summer.

“This lease amendment extends the term of the lease from October 1st 2020 to June 30 2021,” Ryan said.

Committee members say the size of the building in Cranston will allow for 335 hospital beds and a temporary storage space for equipment from the decommissioned sites. It will also include a workspace for the Department of Health staff.

But what happens if there’s another surge?

Joseph Wendelken, a spokesperson at the Rhode Island Department of Health, says they looked closely at the last 10 years of flu data in the state and compared it with data from weeks earlier in the pandemic when case numbers and hospitalizations were much higher.

Wendelken says they calculated the worst case scenarios and determined that the state has the capacity to safely meet the need without the two hospitals that will be decommissioned.

He also says traditional hospitals have refined their surge plans and are better positioned to ramp up if there’s a need in the future.

As for the convention center, Executive Director Jim McCarvill says they don’t have a timeline in place just yet, but they do want to get up and running as soon as possible. He says they have several ideas in the works for how to get people back inside safely.

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