Dallas County officials delayed funding an overflow medical facility for coronavirus patients after area hospitals said they can handle the county’s anticipated peak caseload.
“If the current trend continues, we believe the hospitals in Dallas County will have the capacity, on their existing campuses, to handle the expected COVID-19 volumes,” said Stephen Love, president/CEO of the Dallas-Fort Worth Hospital Council, in a letter sent Monday to County Judge Clay Jenkins.
County officials must now decide whether to proceed with opening a temporary military hospital at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center in Dallas or release federal resources for use in coronavirus hot spots elsewhere.
County commissioners met Monday to consider a management contract for the facility but delayed the vote. The three-month contract would cost county taxpayers an estimated $2 million, with expenses possibly reimbursed by the federal government.
Commissioner J.J. Koch said Tuesday the court would need a “very compelling reason” to spend millions of dollars opening the facility, given the current outlook.
“We are not going to reach our hospital capacity or our ventilator capacity,” Koch said. “We’re probably not going to need that KBH Center hospital in Dallas.”
The convention center was proposed as a standalone step-down facility for recovering coronavirus patients that would free area hospital beds for serious cases.
The facility would have 250 beds in 40,000 square feet, with the capacity to expand to 1,400 beds. The U.S. Navy would provide clinical staff, with the county responsible for support services.
Jenkins said Tuesday that the county has not yet decided to release the federal resources. He and Dallas County Health Director Philip Huang said they still expect a peak “surge” of COVID-19 patients in late April or early May.
“It’s coming up on us fast,” Jenkins said.
Despite the improved outlook for managing the county’s anticipated coronavirus cases, Jenkins said he’s not ready to loosen his lockdown on local businesses and residents, which is in effect through April 30. He said he wants increased testing before allowing people to get back to work.
Koch said it’s time to start easing up on restrictions and taking steps to get businesses operating again.
“We have the hospital capacity to bring people back online safely,” Koch added. “Many of us can get back to work this month.”
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott is expected to announce on Friday his plans to reopen the state’s economy.
Coronavirus information and updates can be found on Dallas County’s Health and Human Services website.