SANDY, Utah — As hospitals and medical staff throughout Utah continue their battle against COVID-19, on Friday, the Mountain America Expo Center in Sandy was converted into an alternate care site for hospital overflow as part of Utah’s Emergency Preparedness Plan, which was established in 2016.
The plan allows the State of Utah to coordinate with Salt Lake County in order to convert the building into an overflow hospital, should the number of patients admitted to a hospital exceed the capacity they are equipped to handle. While our hospitals are effectively handling their patients at present, the State of Utah wanted to have the facility ready should the need ever arise.
“We hope to never use this facility,” says Joe Dougherty, spokesman for Utah Division of Emergency Management. “This is an instance of the State of Utah being proactive and ready just in case we need to bring medical patients here.”
The Utah Division of Emergency Management also wants to make it clear that this overflow care site is not intended for patients being treated for COVID-19. The site is intended for patients who need non-critical care, thereby freeing up hospital resources for patients in critical condition as a result of the pandemic. It is also important to note that the facility is not open to the public.
“This is not open to the general public right now,” says Dougherty. “You would have to be referred here to actually end up in care in a facility like this.”
It took half the day to set up the facility, with the necessary equipment being loaded onto 5 semi-trucks. Currently, the site is equipped with 250 beds and medical equipment for non-critical care. However, should the site reach capacity, they plan to expand that number to include 1000 beds, as well as a pharmacy and equipment for the care of newborns and infants.
According to the Division of Emergency Management, no hospitals need to send patients to this care facility at this time. Officials hope that the facility never has to be opened but cite the need to be prepared as Utah continues to weather the storm of the pandemic.