A 250-bed federal field hospital is planned for Palomar Medical Center to support hospitals in the fight against COVID-19, San Diego County health officials announced Sunday.
The fully functioning "hospital within a hospital" will be installed on the 10th and 11th floors of the Escondido facility and will increase the number of available beds in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic, officials said.
"The facility will be used for those in our community who need it the most," said Dr. Nick Yphantides, San Diego County's chief medical officer, during the announcement outside Palomar Medical Center. "It will be a community-wide resource."
The bed capacity in the region will need to grow in the coming weeks, Yphantides said, "as a storm begins to reach our region."
The federal medical station is expected to include 200 general use beds, 20 enhanced care treatment beds, 10 adjustable exam beds for triage, five bariatric beds, 25 toddler cots and 24 portable cribs, according to the county.
The hospital will have the capability to support quarantine operations and serve as a short-term casualty collection point, and provide services in the capacity of an alternate care facility or a low acuity health care resource.
The decision about whether the federal medical station will serve COVID-19 patients or other kinds of patients will be made at a later time, depending on "which patients will need it the most," the medical officer said.
Doctors and nurses from Palomar Health will staff the new medical station, officials said.
Equipment is expected to arrive in the next 10 days and will be operational within 48 hours of its installation by a federal team, the county said Sunday.
Officials said it was too early to predict the cost of staffing and supplying equipment to the medical station.
Supervisor Nathan Fletcher called the added bed capacity "a positive step forward for our region."
The 10th and 11th floors are currently empty shells because the hospital was designed for future growth as the community grew, said Palomar Health CEO Diane Hansen.
Speakers included County Supervisors Nathan Fletcher and Kristin Gaspar, Palomar Health President and CEO Diane Hansen, and Palomar Health Board of Directors Chair Rick Engel, MD.
Fletcher previously announced San Diego was selected for a mobile field hospital on March 22. He said the hospital could be set up in a stand-alone location or at existing health care facilities.
As of Saturday, the county reported 1,209 total COVID-19 cases and 18 deaths.