Expecting a surge of coronavirus patients, Arizona will re-open St. Luke’s Medical Center in Phoenix in three weeks.
Dr. Cara Christ, the Arizona Department of Health Services director, said the Army Corps of Engineers over the weekend assessed alternate sites for dealing with what could be a surge of Arizona patients needing high-acuity care beyond what the state’s current hospitals can provide.
“Beginning today, the Army Corps will work with the Arizona National Guard to begin re-activation of St. Luke’s Hospital, which will add about 340 high-acuity ICU (intensive care unit) beds,” Christ told reporters Monday.
“Sunday, we signed an agreement after the Corps of Engineers did a site survey to re-activate eight of the nine floors at St. Luke’s. We’ll develop statements of work within the next 72 hours,” said Maj. Gen Michael McGuire, director of the Arizona Department of Emergency and Military Affairs.
McGuire said the intent is to re-open the hospital with an estimated completion time of three weeks, which would be April 20. He said construction companies that can work to “immediately” meet the state’s needs will be hired to do the work.
“We are now pivoting to look at low-acuity sites in northern, central and southern Arizona, and how we would staff and design those systems,” he said.
The 100-year-old St. Luke’s Medical Center, 1800 E. Van Buren St., shut its doors in November. The decision was made because the hospital was not drawing enough patients, owners from Dallas-based Steward Health Care said at the time.
But the hospital is needed now. State officials have said Arizona could be short some 13,000 hospital beds in a worst-case scenario with patients needing treatment for the new coronavirus.
At the current trajectory, the peak of illness in Arizona could hit in mid- to late April with hospitalizations peaking in May, state officials said.
In addition to St. Luke’s, Christ said the state will continue to assess alternate sites for hospital beds in Maricopa County as well as in the northern and southern regions of Arizona.
Besides state efforts at finding additional patient treatment sites, individual hospitals and hospital systems are working to grow bed capacity within their own systems using conference rooms, tents and possibly hotels and churches.
Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey on Friday issued an executive order last week ordering hospitals in the state to increase their bed capacity by 50%, which works out to about 8,000 hospital beds statewide.
There are about 1,000 ventilators statewide, but the state needs at least 4,500. Arizona has requested 5,000 new ventilators from the federal government.