As an EMT in her civilian life, Charisse Hamilton has interacted with COVID patients. Friday, the senior airman was one of 70 members of the Connecticut National Guard setting up a field hospital for those recovering from the virus.
“It’s, you know, very nice to see that we have a plan if we need it to make sure that everyone gets the help that they need,” she said. “It’s giving me an aspect of all different parts of the pandemic.”
The 600-bed facility at the Connecticut Convention Center is the first in the state to be rebuilt for the second wave of the pandemic.
“I enjoy the feeling of feeling like I’m doing something to help the overall mission,” said another senior airman, Mariel Beebe.
The facility, staffed by Hartford HealthCare, will be available to hospitals across the state facing capacity concerns.
“This is something we want to do before you need it,” said Chief Clinical Integration Officer, Dr. James Cardon.
The rise in hospitalizations is a red flag for those on the front lines of this fight. As of Friday, there were nearly 1,200 patients in Connecticut hospitals suffering from COVID-19.
“These facilities are an insurance policy,” said Cardon. “We certainly have no desire to care for patients in this facility if we can avoid it.”
Cardon pointed to the holidays and said he expected them to cause another rise in cases and hospitalizations.
“We think there’s a good chance we can remain below the need to use this facility but it’s certainly not out of the realm of possibilities,” he explained.
The beds were purchased with federal funds at the beginning of the pandemic and have been sitting in storage in New Britain since they were taken down over the summer.
“It’s almost an IKEA bed in a box,” explained Staff Sergeant Steven Tucker.
The beds and partitions are made of a Styrofoam board. While flimsy to the touch, some of the beds can hold up to 400 pounds, and others 600 pounds.
“It’s very lightweight, very easy to move around, and adjust to whatever the hospital may need,” said Tucker.
FEMA will reimburse the state 75% of the cost to set the hospital up again.
“When I joined the military this was what I always wanted to do was sort of like humanitarian work so I’m thrilled to be doing it,” said Tech Sergeant Kelsie Gorman.
The guard was expected to wrap up its work over the weekend, but Hartford HealthCare said it would still be a few weeks before it was able to set up all of the equipment needed to start caring for patients.