COVID-19 & Construction: Building Healthcare Centers

Matt Schneiderman imageMatt Schneiderman  •  


With the number of COVID-19 cases in the US trending higher, it’s clear there’s a dire need for additional hospitals and hospital beds. While the healthcare industry is on the front lines battling the coronavirus — with limited PPE and other seemingly insurmountable challenges — so, too, is construction in the trenches, propping up and expediting work on medical facilities throughout the country. Here’s how the industry is continuing to support the fight against COVID-19.

Expediting delivery of medical rooms

In some places, the need for more beds to address COVID-19 cases is fast-tracking construction of medical facilities. Case in point: a new University of Pennsylvania hospital in Philadelphia. Originally scheduled to open July 2021, expedited construction will allow for the opening of 500 rooms by mid-April.

“Crews are working around the clock to complete this project at an incredible pace — these rooms are expected to be ready by mid-April, 15 months ahead of the facility’s planned opening,” a Penn Medicine spokesperson says. “Penn Medicine leaders have been working closely with Governor Wolf and the Philadelphia Building and Construction Trades Council to move this effort forward during the city’s time of need while ensuring the safety of workers on the site and protecting public health. These construction teams are an essential part of the healthcare workforce that is answering the call to serve our community during this global pandemic.”

Emergency construction

Simultaneously, construction teams are putting together temporary medical stations to address the immediate need — similar to the emergency construction that happened earlier this year in Wuhan, China.

In Riverside County, east of Los Angeles, two federal medical stations will be operational soon.

Pan-Pacific Mechanical, based in Fountain Valley, Calif., worked in partnership with general contractor Turner in the transformation of the Fullenwider Auditorium in Indio, CA, into a working medical facility. Pan-Pacific installed the temporary HVAC systems for proper heating, cooling, and ventilation for patients.

“We’re turning a building at our fairgrounds – it’s a fair building – into a basic hospital,” says Brooke Federico, the Public Information Officer for the County of Riverside. The on-site construction is handled by contractors and vendors, while the National Guard is assembling the equipment provided by the United States Department of Health and Human Services.

“Heating, ventilation, plumbing and electric need to pass inspection,” Federico adds. “The building must maintain temperatures throughout the night. That’s not something required for the fair building.”

The County of Riverside emergency management department received information about the federal medical station on Tuesday, March 24. Materials arrived immediately, and on Wednesday, the National Guard was on-site assembling equipment.

The County of Riverside hired contractors, as well. With the declared local emergency, items were procured in an expedited fashion.

Riverside County spans about 7,300 square miles, so the resources have been split over two locations: one in the Coachella Valley and another on the western side of the county. Supplies for 250 beds are being split evenly between the two sites.

And in a LinkedIn post, our partners at Clark report work on existing centers to prepare for the influx of patients.

“Clark is converting the shuttered Metro South Hospital into an Alternate Care Facility that will provide doctors and medical professionals with the expanded space necessary to treat patients with COVID-19 safely.

“Clark stands ready with the necessary resources to support projects that will help expand our nation’s healthcare infrastructure during these unprecedented times.”

Continued work on healthcare facilities

While confusion persists as to whether most construction is an essential business activity, healthcare-related construction has continued throughout the country — with construction teams working through shelter-in-place measures.

Strategic Building Services, headquartered in Los Angeles County, is managing inspections and compliance on its healthcare projects. Owner Tyler Bashlor posted on LinkedIn that work is proceeding on the Ojai Valley Community Hospital and Providence Holy Cross Medical Center’s PACU as well as on the Loma Linda University Medical Center.

Tyler will be joining us to debate "Is Construction 'Essential?'" during our next webinar. Register to attend and submit questions for our panelists.

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