Alternative Care Site at Cal Poly could house COVID-19 patients starting April 8

Posted at 6:27 PM, Apr 06, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-07 16:00:27-04

Medical scrubs hang in racquetball courts, hospital beds line indoor basketball courts, and boxes of PPE are stacked in weight rooms.

Weeks worth of preparation are finally coming to fruition as San Luis Obispo County emergency leaders transform Cal Poly's Recreation Center into an Alternative Care Site for COVID-19 patients.

The Alternative Care Site (ACS) is not meant to run at the full capacity of a hospital, but instead is designed to relieve the pressure from local hospitals by providing nearly 900 beds.

It’s intended to house patients that are too sick to be at home but not quite sick enough to need major hospital care like ventilation.

"If and when the peak hits here in San Luis Obispo County, when the hospitals are severely impacted, this facility will decant those folks who don't necessarily need to be in the hospital," said Mark Lisa, ACS group lead and CEO of Tenet Healthcare Central Coast.

The construction and 8-week planned operation cost costs the county $4.5 million according to a county spokeswoman.

"The County practice is to budget a 5% contingency (approx. $26M this year) on our operating budget. The contingency is used for unplanned/emergency expenditures mid-year," said Michelle Shoresman, SLO County spokeswoman. "We are using some of these contingency funds to support the ACS and the County’s immediate response to COVID-19."

She said they are looking to state and federal agencies for reimbursement, but unsure how much or any they could receive.

The ACS will grow in phases, each phase serving as a learning process for medical professionals. Phase 1 includes 165 beds in the basketball court and is set to be ready April 8.

The last phase, if needed, would be constructed in Mott Athletics Center.

The facility does not accommodate walk-in patients. County officials said to receive care here, you have to be referred by county public health or a hospital.

If someone at the ACS gets sicker, they will be transferred to a hospital.

"We will be able to provide some basic oxygenation to help them heal because the disease compromised people's pulmonary capacity. We will be able to monitor vital signs, thus the electricity so we can charge up vital signs monitors and hard-wired oxygen."

Bedside outlets will not only let patients plug-in and connect virtually to their families but also help volunteer nurses like Kathleen Yeung check vital signs.

Yeung works as a microbiologist food lab analyst in Guadalupe, but she's joining the fight as a certified phlebotomist.

"I have ties to the healthcare community here. I'm not on the healthcare front anymore, but I can obviously join back in," Yeung said. She volunteered for the San Luis Obispo County Medical Reserve Corps.

As a Cal Poly graduate, she feels compelled to help the only way she knows how, by scrubbing in.

"When you are ready to go into action, and it does feel like you are going into war, you are battling germs, you're battling a virus that you can't see, so in that sense I do feel like it's a duty to help where you can,” Yeung said.

When it's her time to report for duty, she'll be greeted with a county stockpile of personal protective gear (PPE) and strict protocols when entering and exiting treatment zones.

Patients and medical staff will have separate entrances and healthcare workers will have donning tents with sinks to suit up in PPE and scrub off when they leave.

Nearly 230 healthcare workers have volunteered for the San Luis Obispo County Medical Reserve Corps and are ready to work at a moment's notice.

There is still a need for more people and still time to sign up by clicking here.

According to Lisa, SLO County patients would have priority, but if needed, the ACS could welcome patients from neighboring areas like Monterey or Santa Barbara County.