In a move aimed at stopping a potential crisis before it starts,  a room used for exhibitions at the Pasadena Convention Center was converted into an auxiliary hospital in the event beds are not available at Huntington Hospital.

“It’s outfitted for 250 beds right now, and if we needed to add more, we certainly could. As you see, we have plenty of space,” said City Manager Steve Mermell, who was joined at a press briefing last week at the center by City Councilman Tyron Hampton, city Health Officer Dr. Ying-Ying Goh, Police Chief John Perez, Acting Fire Chief Bryan Frieders and various personnel from those two agencies.

“We’re set up to run effectively indefinitely, but we assume right now it will be a three-month period for planning purposes,” Mermell said. “My hope is we won’t need this facility at all, but should we peak and the hospital is overrun, it’s insurance.

“Ideally, all the patients who need to be in the hospital are in the hospital, but if for some reason they can’t accommodate them, we’ve talked about two types of patients; low acuity but requiring some sort of medical attention, and at the other extreme are people who can only be comforted.”

Mermell stressed that the beds, or really cots separated by tarp-like material in a unit containing a lamp and a chair, would not be for non-COVID-19 patients, as was originally the intent of using the Navy hospital ships Comfort and Mercy in New York and Los Angeles, respectively.

As Mermell said, “They would only move people over from the hospital if the hospital was out of space.”

On April 6, the council voted unanimously to approve a contract with Redrock Entertainment Services, which specializes in providing similar health care services at concerts,  festivals and other large events, “not to exceed $700,000 to allow for up to 90 days of operation and/or any adjustment to service levels such as an increase in beds,” according to the report.

Medical staff and equipment, as well as liability, would be covered by Huntington Hospital, officials have said.

The center was chosen because it has 97,000 square feet of flexible space that can be configured as needed, a subterranean loading dock, full food service and is located approximately one mile from Huntington Hospital.

As of April 20, Pasadena reported 249 COVID-19-related cases and 20 virus-related deaths. All decedents were between ages 49 and 96, were associated with long-term care facilities (residents or employees), and had underlying health conditions, according to the city’s website.

“We would be most happy if we didn’t use a single one of them because that would mean the measures that you are following at home, and whatever our mitigation measures look like in the future, that those are working sufficiently, that we would not surpass what the hospital can handle, and we want to keep the care at the hospital, because that is where all the staff are,” said Dr. Goh.

“I think when you are seeing people dying in New York City and their overflow situation … I think this is the right thing to do,” she said.

“I believe it is necessary that we have to be prepared for a worst-case scenario,” said Hampton.

“I think Pasadena residents and San Gabriel Valley residents are doing a fantastic job by staying at home and flattening this curve overall, but if anything happens we don’t want to be caught off guard. Preparation is better than no game plan at all.”  

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