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Columbus Convention Center Set Up as Alternate Care Center for COVID-19 Patients

Susan Post Susan Post Columbus Convention Center Set Up as Alternate Care Center for COVID-19 PatientsPhotos provided by the City of Columbus
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The Greater Columbus Convention Center has been set up as an Alternate Care Center for COVID-19 patients should local hospital systems need the space.

In a coordinated effort between Mt. Carmel, Ohio Health and The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, approximately 400,000 square feet of space at the Convention Center is now set up to operate as a 1,000-bed care site.

“If we stay the course, we may never need to open this facility,” said Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther during a press conference.

Columbus Public Health Commissioner Dr. Mysheika Roberts stressed the importance of getting the care center ready before it’s needed.

“We have gotten some good indications that we are beginning to flatten curve here in Ohio as well as right here in the Columbus and Central Ohio area, but we do continue to see daily increases of our COVID-19 cases,” Roberts said.

As of Tuesday, April 14, Franklin County is reporting 1,053 cases with 210 hospitalizations and 18 deaths.

“We’ve seen the unfortunate consequences in other cities who are ahead of us in terms of cases and in terms of the negative impacts it’s had on their community, and they’ve struggled to find overflow locations for their patients with COVID-19,” Roberts said. “That will not be the case here in Columbus.”

Roberts reiterated that hopefully the center sees no patients, “But I’d rather be ready and prepared than scramble to find a solution.”

Mayor Andrew Ginther looks at a map of the Alternate Care Center at the Convention Center

Dr. Robert Falcone, CEO of Central Ohio Trauma System, discussed the three-tiered process hospitals would go through before any patients would be moved to the Convention Center.

In early March, local hospital systems entered the first phase by stopping all elective surgeries and discharging patients that didn’t need hospital care. Falcone said this opened up about 2,000 in-patient beds, about a third of which are critical care beds.

The next step, if needed, would be to convert non in-patient space within hospitals, like recovery rooms, waiting areas, etc., into in-patient suites, with Falcone noting this would add a few thousand more beds.

If hospitals then exceed that capacity, the Alternate Care Center at the Convention Center would be used for, “COVID-19 patients who are not sick enough to require full hospital care, but are not well enough to go home,” Falcone said.

All potential patients that would be housed at the Convention Center would come directly from local hospital systems.

“We would only be transferring their patients that were recovering from COVID-19. All patients would be transferred from one of our hospitals so their care would begin at one of our hospitals,” said Brian Jepson, administrator of the Alternate Care Center and president of OhioHealth in Central Ohio. “We will not be accepting direct admissions to the alternative site of care.”

The facility will not provide long-term care. Jepson said if a patient’s condition deteriorates, they will be stabilized and transferred back to the hospital. On the flip side, when a patient is ready to be discharged from the alternative care site, they will be allowed to return home.

Each hospital system – Mt. Carmel, Ohio Health and The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center – will have its own space within the facility. Multi-disciplinary teams have been working together to standardize care.

The 1,000 beds at the care center are set up in 10-foot by 10-foot spaces and equipped like a medical room would be in a hospital.

If a surge of cases does occur, Jepson says it will take about 72 hours to activate the facility. As for when a potenital surge in cases could occur, Roberts says Central Ohio is currently not seeing any surge, but according to various forecasting models if one were to occur, it would likely be in the next two weeks.

Keep up with regular news updates regarding Columbus and Ohio’s response to COVID-19 here.

For more information on COVID-19 in Ohio, visit coronavirus.ohio.gov or call 1-833-4-ASK-ODH.

A patient area at the Alternate Care Center at the Convention Center
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