Austin Convention Center hospital will be on standby as staffing questions remain


AUSTIN (KXAN) — Austin Public Health offered few specifics about an alternate hospital inside the downtown Convention Center that’s expected to be ready to take patients. The site would alleviate capacity issues at local hospitals by taking in patients who don’t need critical care.

Previously, APH expected the location to open on Tuesday, but health officials tell KXAN there aren’t enough COVID-19 cases to warrant opening the alternate care site right now.

But as hospital workers are stretched thin due to the influx of COVID-19 patients, APH says right now it ‘cannot share’ which companies it would use to staff the field hospital.

“We are going to utilize a combination of staffing contracts, volunteers from the Texas Disaster Voluntary Registry and volunteers from the Travis County Medical Society to staff the ACS,” said a department spokesperson.

There are tents, beds, tables and chairs on-site to handle an initial 100 patients. There are also medical supplies including pharmaceuticals, bedding, gowns, shower facilities, computers and IT,” APH added.

The field hospital isn’t needed yet, Mayor Steve Adler confirmed Monday morning.

The trigger point for when the alternate care site starts accepting patients will predominately be determined by local hospitals and their needs.

When leaders initiated the field hospital preparations several weeks ago, Austin was in the thick of a significant uptick of COVID-19 hospital admissions. Local officials have been watching the data closely and say that while the hospital numbers have not declined, they have plateaued.

In an internal notice sent to employees early this month, St. David’s Healthcare CEO David Huffstutler said the field hospital “would relieve some of the strain on the beds and staffing, and it could potentially make it possible for us to resume outpatient surgeries sooner.”

KXAN has been reaching out to different staffing agencies who could be placing hospital employees in the Austin area. When we learn about which employees are being placed, we’ll provide an update.

The City says it will use existing contracts for laundry services at the hospital. An existing vendor for the convention center will prepare patient meals.

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