By Steve Klamkin WPRO News
A 353-bed field hospital built in April to treat coronavirus patients but has yet to be occupied is now being readied, as state officials scramble to deal with a growing surge in COVID cases.
The cavernous hospital off Sockannosset Cross Road, erected in just three weeks at a cost of $8 million was ready to take patients in April, but cases eased after the initial surge and hospitals were able to accommodate all of the COVID patients.
“The primary plan that we have in place is to have only COVID positive patients here,” said Dr. Laura Forman, Chief of emergency medicine at Kent Hospital in Warwick and Chief Medical Officer of the Cranston field hospital. “That having been said, we have backup plan after backup in plan in place should the needs for the state differ from that.”
Dr. Forman met Friday morning with reporters at the facility, a former Citizens Bank office complex, along with Rhode Island Director of Administration Brett Smiley and Shannon Sullivan, President and Chief Operating Officer at Women & Infants Hospital, who oversaw construction of the field hospital.
“We were working around the clock with a large, comprehensive team to get it up and moving,” in April, said Sullivan. “Now we know we probably had a little more time to do so, but we didn’t know that in the spring.”
The hospital consists of wards named for Rhode Island beaches, and each bed has minimal appointments, consisting of a curtain and a bedside table. There are no individual monitors, and Dr. Forman said medical staff will patrol the wards, constantly monitoring patients’ progress.
A few ventilators will be available, but most of the patients will be sent to the Cranston facility following initial treatment at regular hospitals. Dr. Forman anticipates that most patients’ stay at the field hospital will be a brief, three to four days, a typical hospital stay for most illnesses.
Two other field hospitals were planned in the spring, said Director Smiley. A second facility at the Rhode Island Convention Center in Providence was built, and remains ready for completion should it be needed.
Smiley said a third facility at a former Lowe’s home improvement store at Quonset Point in North Kingstown was never constructed, although the space remains available should it be needed.
Sullivan said the public can help with donations of electronic devices such as tablets that patients can use to stay in touch with loved ones, and the doctors and staff could use an espresso machine in their ‘break’ room.
Visitors are not allowed in the restricted facility, but there is a discharge area for family to pick up patients at the end of their stay.