COVID-19 unit plans on hold as search for operator continues

Posted at 7:40 PM, May 01, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-02 00:39:11-04

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — As some people worry about a possible spike in COVID-19 cases because of businesses reopening, plans to open a hospital unit for all COVID-19 patients in need of hospitalization remain on hold.

The main hold-up is finding an entity to operate the unit once a portion of the former CHRISTUS Spohn Hospital Memorial is retrofitted to meet the unit's needs -- the key stipulation in the Nueces Co. Hospital District awarding $3 million for the renovations.

“Somebody’s got to be on board, whether it’s the local hospitals or the state that’s going to do it," hospital district chairman John Martinez said.

The hospital district took no action on the COVID-19 unit at its meeting Friday. An option to revise, or even rescind, the funding agreement was on the agenda, but the board voted to table it.

Nueces Co. Judge Barbara Canales is spearheading the efforts to get the unit up-and-running. Part of her efforts include appealing to the state government for funding and support -- something she said other communities have done -- so they'll be ready whether or not there's a spike in novel coronavirus cases.

“Some (COVID-19 units) are being done without any knowledge that they’ll be used," Canales said. "It’s important that the community understands why.”

A third member of the Nueces Co. Commissioners Court, which Canales leads, came out publicly in opposition to the current COVID-19 unit plan at Friday's meeting. Commissioner Joe Gonzalez doesn't like the idea of spending $3 million dollars at a hospital complex that's set to be demolished in three years -- even if the COVID-19 unit remained standing.

“I don’t support it," he said. "If you tear the main building down, folks -- just think about it. You have (the COVID-19 unit) by itself. How is that building going to survive?”

Others believe the key to surviving the pandemic might be creating the COVID-19 unit.

"We want to make sure that if there is a need that we’re ready," Martinez said. "Because if there is a need and we’re not ready, it could be catastrophic for our community.”