Hospital district OKs funds for specialized COVID-19 unit

Posted at 5:57 PM, Apr 17, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-17 23:59:49-04

At the end of a five-hour meeting Friday, the Nueces County Hospital District approved up to $3 million in funding to convert the old ICU at CHRISTUS Spohn Hospital Memorial into a unit dedicated to treating COVID-19 patients.

Nueces Co. Judge Barbara Canales is leading the charge to create the unit that’s technically called an "alternative care site" or ACS. Before the vote today, she encouraged hospital district members -- not to talk -- but to take action.

“When EMS comes to your house, do you want to debate or do you want them to start resuscitation?" Canales asked. "When the fire is there, do you want to talk or do you want to put the fire out? If we wait we will lose our window.”

The COVID-19 Unit was not without opponents. CHRISTUS Spohn Memorial is scheduled to be torn down in three years, and some people at today's meeting didn't like the idea of pouring so much money into it.

"We don’t need to go renovate and spend $2.6 million or whatever it is on a building that you know is slated for demolition,” Nueces County Precinct One Commissioner Carolyn Vaughn said.

In the end, the hospital district approved the funding with some stipulations.

“There are steps that need to be taken by the county," Hospital District Chairman John Martinez said. "We need to ensure that it’s going to be properly staffed by the right authorities and the right staff. Those things have to fall in place, and there are some other things that the county needs to do.”

It's now up to Canales and other county leaders to ensure those stipulations are met. She's also reaching out to the state for possible reimbursement of the costs associated with creating the ACS.

Martinez hopes she'll have more information for the hospital district at their next meeting Tuesday. As for today's meeting, he's satisfied the district approved the funding despite Memorial's impending demolition.

“I don’t see it as a difficult decision," he said. "Yes it’s money, but we’re talking about lives. And when we’re talking about saving lives, that’s always going to be the thing that you look at more than money."