Greater Columbus Convention Center's COVID-19 surge hospital in storage for now

Marc Kovac
mkovac@dispatch.com
The coronavirus surge hospital at the Greater Columbus Convention Center has been disassembled and placed in storage for now.

About five months ago, with concerns that area hospitals would not have space to treat an onslaught of COVID-19 coronavirus patients, Franklin County officials transformed part of the Greater Columbus Convention Center into a 1,200-bed field hospital.

The space stood ready in case the number of residents requiring treatment for the virus outpaced available hospital beds.

Now much of the equipment is shrink-wrapped on pallets in storage at the convention center and could be moved into warehousing space in coming months, close enough to be reassembled in short order if needed.

"Eventually, that's going to occur," Jeff Young, director of Franklin County Emergency Management and Homeland Security, said of moving the medical equipment to off-site storage. "We will need to come up with a long-term solution. Until we have a vaccine and we feel like we can really close the book on COVID-19, we want to make sure we have as many options locally available as we can."

In April, the Franklin County commissioners earmarked $5 million in federal coronavirus-response funding to pay for the surge hospital. About $3.3 million of that total has been spent on setting up the space and, subsequently, storing the cots and other equipment on site. It's costing about $60,000 a month for storage, Young said.

The initial surge hospital was set up within a couple of weeks. With equipment stored on-site at the convention center, it could be back in place in three to seven days, Young said. If stored off-site, it would take a bit longer.

Officials in June began to slowly disassemble the surge hospital to make way for events. It had not been used by area hospitals to treat coronavirus patients.

"I think we need to continue to keep our options open," Franklin County Commissioner John O'Grady said. "I think we're still a long ways from being out of the woods here."

That's if it's actually needed. Hospitals, Young said, are better positioned today than during the early days of the pandemic to handle coronavirus patients, with treatments evolving and daily operations shifted to address the pandemic.

"The knowledge and experience our medical partners have gained over the past six months and their adapting to COVID-19 and how to treat COVID patients is really the story," Young said. "They've done that very effectively. The volume of COVID patients at the hospital continues to decrease dramatically and trend in a positive way."

mkovac@dispatch.com

@OhioCapitalBlog