A former hardware store in Woodland Park has become the Pikes Peak region’s first “surge site” that will be used for a potential overflow of hospital patients in Teller County.
“The curve has not yet hit us,” Don Angell, emergency management director for Teller County, said of the nationwide spread of the novel coronavirus.
“We know things are coming — we just don’t have a date or a time — but I’d rather be ahead of the curve than behind the curve,” Angell said Tuesday at a public unveiling of the new facility.
More than 30 people in Teller County, with a population of just over 25,000, have been tested for COVID-19, said Ron Fitch, chief administrative officer for UCHealth, which runs Pikes Peak Regional Hospital outside of Woodland Park and three hospitals in Colorado Springs.
Seven confirmed cases of the respiratory virus are active in Teller County, and one resident has died since the pandemic started, according to Tuesday's data from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.
To create the facility, county logistics and facilities workers in three days cleared the 11,000-square-foot empty space at 703 Gold Hill Place South of dust and dirt, and refurbished it with fresh paint, floor wax and window coverings, officials said.
“We hope we never have to use it, but if we do, we’re prepared if the hospital runs out of room,” Teller County Commissioner Marc Dettenrieder said.
The military-style hospital setup includes 50 cots, hanging privacy screens, oxygen concentrators, portable hand-washing stations, separate bathrooms for staff and patients, showers, office space and large screens for monitoring patients. A backup emergency generator also is available.
Use of the auxiliary site will be triggered when Pikes Peak Regional Hospital is full, said Dr. Jeremy DeWall, medical director of Emergency Management Services for Teller County.
“This isn’t a COVID-19 hospital; it’s more to decompress the hospital, which will have the sicker people,” he said.
Pikes Peak Regional Hospital has 15 in-patient beds and can expand to accommodate 21 hospitalized patients in a surge situation, Fitch said. UCHealth also will staff the surge site.
COVID-19 patients would not be cared for long-term in Woodland Park but would be transferred to Colorado Springs hospitals, Fitch said. The hospital in Woodland Park is not a primary emergency facility and does not have critical-care beds, although it does have a few ventilators, he said.
Hospital beds have been at 50% of capacity over the past few months, and less now, with people obeying the state’s “Stay-at-Home” mandate to help contain the spread of the coronavirus, Fitch said.
Public health and emergency management officials in El Paso County also are planning to set up a public surge facility in Colorado Springs and “have identified some potential sites,” he said.
“We’re basing our preparedness on what the state anticipates we could see,” Fitch said. “Being prepared on the front end is key.”