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Local leaders to decide on reopening Memorial Hospital ICU for coronavirus patients

Memorial Hospital closed its doors several years ago and is scheduled to be demolished.

NUECES COUNTY, Texas — Nueces County Judge Barbara Canales announced that the county has developed a plan to create a COVID-19 clinic where active COVID-19 patients could receive free medical care. That clinic would provide an alternate way for patients to receive assistance.

The idea would be to use an empty building at the old Memorial Hospital complex, which is now owned by the hospital district.

"This is something I'm very hopeful will keep our emergency rooms free from the over-running of patients that don't need to be hospitalized, but need to be in a doctor's care there are things we can do to help them that can hopefully prevent a hospital stay," Canales said.

Canales said she has the proposal ready for the hospital district and emergency management team to look at this week. 

July 2

Nueces County Judge Barbara Canales said she expects a decision to be made on whether they are going to open up the old Memorial Hospital ICU unit as a COVID-19 patient treatment facility.

Memorial Hospital closed its doors several years ago and is scheduled to be demolished. Several months ago, the Nueces County Hospital District agreed to spend up to $3M to open its ICU unit back up to treat coronavirus patients. The Texas National Guard went to look at what all needed to be done to do that job. 

"It's in great shape but the electrical in the plumbing definitely needs major renovations in addition in order to properly work with the contingent there has been some talk about a negative pressurized system for HVAC so I think that has already been designed," Canales said.

We're told by Judge Canales that the HVAC system alone would cost $1.5M and drive the total cost closer to the $3M mark that the hospital district had agreed to spend.

"It may or may not be used depending on the use of the unit," Canales said. "The purpose of the unit is to basically allow for hospitals to have a place for surge so that you could have patients that may not need intensive care but they still need to be cared for and they still have COVID."

The judge said there are about 46 beds that could eventually be opened up inside the memorial ICU. She also believes that it would take a month of renovations to be able to start to use some of those beds. Judge Canales tells 3News that she expects a decision to be made on this issue next week.

"I'd like to say next week that we really come to terms with this, this is something that we want to put our energies toward, and I think that's a fair timeline given all the issues that are before us right now with the rising healthcare cases," Canales said.

Director of Public Health Annette Rodriguez agrees with the need for the extra bed space.

"I was in with the planning at the early stages and we all agreed we actually do need this, maybe we don't, maybe we do, but in our minds everything that we saw it looked like we were going to need it at some point so yes I still believe that we do need that," Rodriguez said.

The judge expects that she along with Christus Spohn Hospital officials and the Coastal Bend Regional Advisory Council will come together next week to finally decide on this issue. 

For the latest updates on coronavirus in the Coastal Bend, click here.

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