In anticipation of the coming surge of patients needing hospitalization for COVID-19, Hartford HealthCare partnered with the state and Army National Guard to build two alternate-care sites to treat low-acuity patients with the virus.

The goal is to leave beds in the system’s hospitals available for patients with advanced cases of COVID-19, according to Dr. Mark Prete, president of the Hartford HealthCare Medical Group and commander of Hartford HealthCare’s alternate-care sites.

“The population is those needing post-acute care who just can’t go home yet or those on observation status,” he said.

Any patient whose condition worsens will be transferred to the nearby hospital.

The National Guard carved out 640 beds at the Convention Center in Hartford. Another 240 beds are planned in the gyms at Central Connecticut State University in New Britain, according to Tom Vaccarelli, vice president of facilities, construction and real estate for Hartford HealthCare.

The people who will be admitted to the alternate-care sites will be those recovering from COVID-19 or whose condition is mild but being monitored to see if they need more advanced care, Dr. Prete said. As they are not acute care hospitals, they will not care for those seriously or critically ill and in need of ventilators or respiratory treatments.

Dr. James Cardon, chief clinical integration officer at Hartford HealthCare and an integral part of site preparation and operation, added, “We will be taking the most stable folks, those who are on the mend but need continued support. This allows us to create space in our acute care facilities for sicker patients.”

As construction got underway, Vaccarelli noted that Hartford HealthCare teams had been charged with operationalizing the sites, creating everything from floor plans to supply lists, and orchestrating the labor pool needed to staff the locations.

“The state and Guard are taking directions from us on how these alternate care sites should look and what should be in them,” he explained.

Staffing needs, Dr. Prete said, will be organized by the Central Staffing Office and draw mainly on ambulatory medical group and post acute clinical staff from across the system. They will work on the Epic patient records system.

“We’ll be using all levels of staff appropriate to the level of care we’ll be providing – physicians, nurses, APRNs, physician supervisors and more,” he said.

Dr. Cardon said the project underscores the value of collaboration during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This is an important partnership with the state of Connecticut and the Reserves to commit to offering care to patients,” he said. “Without their help, this would not be doable. It’s one more layer of capability that we wouldn’t have otherwise had.”

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