It's not the exact plan they discussed for months, but the Nueces County Hospital District Board of Managers has approved creating a hospital unit dedicated to treating COVID-19 patients in hopes of taking some of that burden off of the area's other medical facilities.
"It’s been a long time coming," Chairman John Martinez said. "We’ve been really lucky that we haven’t needed the facility up until this point. We’ve been able to handle it. But when the time comes that we do need this facility, we’re going to be really glad that we have it.”
The facility is known as an alternative care site, or an ACS. It will be located in a currently unused portion of Corpus Christi Medical Center Northwest Regional Hospital in Calallen.
“(Parent company) HCA (and) Corpus Christi Medical Center just believe in working with Corpus Christi and making sure that all the members of the community have health care during this time of crisis,” CCMC CEO Eric Evans said.
The board chose the Northwest Regional location over two CHRISTUS Spohn properties -- most notably, the old Memorial Hospital. Since April, Nueces County Judge Barbara Canales had been urging the board to approve funding to create an ACS there.
She addressed the board before their vote Thursday via teleconference, because she's in quarantine after possibly coming in contact with someone who tested positive for the novel coronavirus.
“These beds (in the ACS) are extremely vital and important to our continued COVID-19 response for the future," Canales said. "I wish we had double these beds."
Canales also promised to help secure state reimbursement for the costs associated with creating the ACS. The estimate for renovations is $1.5 million in hospital district and county funds.
Patients already are being transported to the ACS at Northwest Regional, and hospital leaders said it should accommodate 30 by the end of August.
The timing is significant, with some experts predicting another spike in coronavirus cases in the fall.
“The idea is that the hospitals will get more patients," Martinez said. "They will start to reach capacities, and we will have this facility to be able to handle those.”