According to the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency (TEMA), the now deconstructed Memphis and Nashville COVID-19 overflow emergency hospitals, created with a $51 million federal grant, never treated a single patient.
The facilities were intended to receive patients with “low to moderate acuity” cases of the novel coronavirus but with too high severity to warrant discharge home. They anticipated that patients would stay an average of four days.
Memphis’s 12-acre 495 Union Ave. hospital, which was completed on June 9, 2020, entailed renovation of a 125,000-square foot, five-story building — the erstwhile location of The Commercial Appeal newspaper — for potential use of up to 402 COVID-19 patients at one time. It was built to provide medical oxygen, pharmacy services, internet access, handicapped accessibility, 33 negative-pressure isolation rooms, radiology, and other needs.
Nashville’s 1818 Albion St. site was completed within two floors in Nashville General Hospital, totaling 26,292 square feet, on May 31, 2020. This “hospital-within-a-hospital model, designed to be able to activate and de-activate quickly,” made 67 beds available to COVID patients. It would have provided similar services to the Memphis facility.
In a statement this week, TEMA Director Patrick Sheehan touted the two sites as “models of what the public and private sector can accomplish working together.” He said “we’ll use this success in planning for other emergencies that may impact our health care system.”
In the TEMA release, Governor Bill Lee said that early coronavirus-infection projections raised the possibility that every state could have seen more hospitalizations than their preexisting medical facilities could handle.
“Tennessee’s alternate care sites provided our health care system with a margin of safety, and thankfully we did not need to open either site,” he said.
TEMA has retrieved the entirety of medical materials and equipment from the two alternate-care hospitals and has said it will follow state and federal protocol for returning the supplies to use.
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