Virus patients to be sent to giant Georgia convention center

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ATLANTA (AP) — Georgia’s governor says one of the nation’s largest convention centers will reopen on Monday with “surge beds” to treat COVID-19 patients as critical care units across the state remain nearly full.

Gov. Brian Kemp announced Friday that the Georgia World Congress Center in downtown Atlanta will begin receiving patients Monday with 60 beds initially.

It will increase to 120 beds if needed.

Kemp says the beds will provide relief to surrounding health care facilities.

The 3,200 people in hospitals on Thursday was a record since the pandemic began, and critical care beds statewide are 87% full.

Full statement from the governor:

Today Governor Brian P. Kemp announced that the Georgia World Congress Center (GWCC) is scheduled to reopen and begin receiving COVID-19 patients on Monday, August 3rd. With a total capacity of 120 beds, the facility will house an initial surge of 60 beds and increase based on need.

“As part of our strategic plan to expand surge capacity in Georgia, we are re-opening the Georgia World Congress Center,” said Governor Kemp. “These additional hospital beds will provide relief to surrounding healthcare facilities while providing top notch care for patients. My administration is laser-focused on expanding hospital surge capacity while working to stop the spread of COVID-19 in Georgia.”

Grady Memorial Hospital will serve as the lead hospital for clinical oversight for the 120 bed facility. The GWCC facility will also have the staffing and equipment necessary to treat a higher level of acuity in patients than the previous configuration during the months of May and June, enabling hospitals to focus their staff and resources on the most critical patients in their facilities.

Furthermore, to ensure hospitals and healthcare providers can quickly identify hospital bed capacity for COVID-19 patients statewide, the state is partnering with Grady Health System to expand and renew the existing Regional Coordinating Center (RCC) as the Georgia Coordinating Center (GCC).

The Regional Coordinating Center (RCC) was established in December of 2019 to manage the placement of ambulance-transported patients after an internal flood at Grady left the hospital unable to handle its usual number of ambulance arrivals. Earlier this year, the center took on the additional responsibility of coordinating transfers to the temporary hospital established by the state at the Georgia World Congress Center.

At the instruction of the governor, and with a $1.2 million investment from the state, the center has now evolved to become the COVID-19 Georgia Coordinating Center – providing real-time information on hospital bed availability statewide and a call center to assist in transferring patients to hospitals able to provide the appropriate level of care. The GCC will continue to be housed at Grady and operate under the supervision of the Georgia Department of Public Health. The center will be staffed 24/7 by paramedics and EMTs.

“By leveraging an existing partnership with Grady Health System, the Georgia Coordinating Center will allow hospitals to use real-time, statewide information to ensure their patients receive the care they need,” said Governor Kemp. “I greatly appreciate Grady’s willingness to offer their expertise and provide this critical service to Georgia as we continue our fight against COVID-19.”

Grady developed a web-based platform for hospitals across the state to view and report critical information, including current diversion status and bed availability. The website allows hospitals and EMS to make better, coordinated decisions about patient transports.