Coronavirus: Baltimore Convention Center To Become Field Hospital

This article originally appeared on the Baltimore Patch

BALTIMORE, MD — One day after announcing the Baltimore Convention Center would be turned into a field hospital to handle the expected surge of patients from the new coronavirus, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan toured the facility off Pratt Street.

The Maryland Department of General Services has leased the site, which the Maryland National Guard is readying for use. Hogan said he asked the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for 250 beds and 50 bed packages for the program.

The 250 beds "will help free up the hospitals to care for more serious and critical patients," Peggy Daidakis, executive director of the Baltimore Convention Center, said at a news conference in Baltimore Wednesday morning. About 123,000 square feet of exhibit space will be converted into an alternative care facility, she said.

Johns Hopkins Medicine and the University of Maryland Medical System will partner to manage the daily operations, which Hogan said would encompass a field hospital and alternate care site.

"It will be a prototype for the state of Maryland," Daidakis said of the facility, which will be assembled by the National Guard with supplies provided by FEMA. "The Baltimore Convention Center team will be providing support services to make and keep the medical units operational. Workers who have been displaced will be returning to provide food service, telecommunications, utilities and other services needed for the care of the patients and needs of the care workers."

Getting the hospital ready is a key part of the hospital surge plan, according to Hogan. The plan is designed to prepare the state for an influx of patients beyond the capacity its medical facilities can normally accommodate.

Governors around the country are working to address the shortage of hospital beds expected if there is a wave of coronavirus patients. In New York, the governor there toured a convention center over the weekend and announced plans to convert it into a field hospital. In Washington state, a soccer field may be converted into a field hospital for those who are not sick enough to be in hospitals but who cannot be at home due to the risk of infecting others.

In Maryland, Hogan said the projections called for 6,000 beds to be made available to handle an influx of patients from the coronavirus. There are 900 hospital beds available, he reported Monday, and said 1,400 more would be made available by early April. Mercy Medical Center is also adding a 32-bed acute care unit to its hospital in the next few months.

In addition, the state has worked to reopen the closed hospital in Laurel, with 135 hospital beds opening "in short order," Hogan said Monday.

Freight will be arriving at the Baltimore Convention Center in the days ahead, according to a statement provided to WBAL from Daidakis, who said the building was closed to the public until further notice and just because supplies will be arriving "does not mean those services are imminent."