Castleton's Spartan Arena transformed into surge site

Published: Apr. 7, 2020 at 3:52 PM EDT
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As Vermont prepares for a possible surge in coronavirus cases, overflow facilities are being set up around the state, including a new facility in Rutland.

The Rutland Regional Medical Center is transforming Castleton University's Spartan Arena, which is in Rutland, into an alternate care site.

"We have here 100 cots laid out, organized in what we might even call nursing units so that our nurses can operate efficiently and care for a certain number of patients," said RRMC's Jeff Mckee.

With help from the state and the National Guard, the extra facility will allow the medical center to care for up to 150 patients. Staffing for the program will predominately come from out-patient service partners.

"By the time we turn this on, our hospital will have expanded its capacity almost by double and so there will be very few staff from the hospital proper that will be able to come and work here," Mckee said.

The care site is currently planned for non-infected patients, preventing people from going into long-term care facilities and giving support to those who may need a little extra care before going home. But the hospital is prepared for changes.

"We need to be flexible. We're going to start out looking at a mostly COVID-negative unit, but then we are also going to try to build in a capability that if we need some space for positive patients while they're recovering, we could use that for a lower acuity COVID-positive unit too," said RRMC's Claudio Fort.

Privacy for patients is a bit of a concern because they don't have curtains for each bed, but the facility comes with some built-in help.

"When we're doing procedures or we need to ensure that higher degree of privacy, we have many, many dividers that we can put around beds for them. And one of the things about this facility that made it ideal for our use was that we have access to locker rooms and bathrooms and showers and things like that," Mckee said.

He says it has been a community effort to make this come to fruition so quickly. "We have some infrastructure we still need to do, we have a crew out working with lighting so that at night we have appropriate lighting, and we have some other people working on our medical records systems and so forth, so we can do that," Mckee said.

Like the site at Patrick Gym in Burlington, officials say they hope they won't have to use it, but they will be ready within the next few days just in case.