State Spent Millions on Arena Hospital That Saw 9 Patients

Physicians reached an arena-turned-medical center in Sacramento in mid-April and were told to get ready for 30 to 60 coronavirus clients to show up within days. They spent the weekend working feverishly to get prepared.

State officials envisioned the cavernous Sleep Train Arena and an adjacent center as a place where numerous patients might be dealt with, but in the very first week, simply one got here. The speed never increased, and the 250 put together medical workers– physicians, nurses, pharmacists and administrative personnel– discovered themselves wondering what to do.

“Individuals began to question within themselves whether they were really needed or not,” said Dr. Charles Moore, a retired internal medicine doctor who worked there for about six weeks. “There were no plans for what would happen if you gave a celebration and nobody came.”

Ultimately, simply nine clients arrived over 10 weeks. The expense to care for them was a staggering $12 million.

The Sacramento site was one of 15 short-lived medical facilities set up around California in anticipation of a surge of cases that never emerged. It shut down on July 1, as did most others.

But as virus cases began increasing again around California in June, the state decided to keep some open and take lessons from Sleep Train to run them more effectively.

Kim Brown Sims, the arena’s chief nursing officer, composed a training manual the state might use across its facilities. She likewise suggested the state either develop its own electronic record system to utilize at every website or partner with regional healthcare facilities to utilize their systems, instead of needing centers to produce their own paper systems, something the physicians had been asked to do that very first weekend at Sleep Train.

Dr. Amesh Adalja, a senior scholar at Johns Hopkins University Center for Health Security concentrated on pandemic preparedness, said California wasn’t alone in getting ready for a New York city City-like flood of cases that would overwhelm healthcare facilities.

“Lots of places just went extremely quickly due to the fact that they were frightened and they had the ability to do it so they did it, not considering how they were going to make all the pieces fit together and integrate with the existing health care system and deliver efficient care,” he stated.

Moving forward, he said when deciding whether to open alternate care sites California authorities need to use local infection rates and hospitalizations to set staffing so the sites do not have a lot of medical professionals and insufficient patients.

Brian Ferguson, a spokesperson for the state Office of Emergency Solutions, acknowledged the state didn’t utilize regional information when fist establishing field sites.

“I believe in hindsight we would certainly make certain that we would do some things comparable again, but maybe be more thoughtful about how quickly we ramp up or have more off-ramps,” he stated.

However, Ferguson said the state benefits from having staff who have been trained to operate at such facilities and established treatments for running the sites.

“Having those folks trained, having these websites available will continue to be a value,” he said.

Sleep Train Arena was the site of an April 6 news conference by Gov. Gavin Newsom, who hailed the facility as a prime example of California’s quick readiness. It and a close-by structure, both owned by the NBA’s Sacramento Kings, would house 400 beds and take individuals discharged from hospitals or be the first stop for people with moderate to moderate infection symptoms, he stated.

Newsom didn’t point out the state was paying the Kings to lease and offer services, an expense of $1 million over two months. The state invested another $7 million on mechanical, electrical, pipes and other improvements, according to the Department of General Services.

The state likewise invested at least $2.8 million on personnel, almost $500,000 on personal protective equipment and about $1 million on other costs.

The California Health Corps, a volunteer effort begun by Newsom, provided 199 workers at an expense of about $563,000. The state invested another $428,000 on just five pharmacists and 5 pharmacy specialists under an agreement with Aya Health care, a San Diego-based travel nursing company.

Their payment consisted of housing, benefits and per diem allowances, stated Rodger Butler, a spokesman for the California Health and Human Services Agency.

President, nursing and medical officers were worked with along with lots of other workers through a $1 million contract with Medefis, a vendor management business. An agreement with Cardinal Health Pharmacy Solutions supplied 2 more workers.

After an opening week that saw one client, 5 originated from a retirement home that didn’t desire COVID-positive patients. While all of the clients were older, none was very sick or in need of day-and-night care, said Moore, a Health Corps member.

Still, that’s what they got, with one medical professional going to each patient every shift, Moore said.

At one point, medical professionals conceptualized on whether they could be doing some kind of public outreach to let people know the facility existed.

“It still wasn’t clear what our service location was or what we were truly doing. Were we decompressing healthcare facilities? Were we decompressing assisted living home? Were we decompressing homeless shelters? There was never any official mission statement at our level,” he stated.

Randal Christensen, a medical professional from Nevada who established mobile health clinics throughout Hurricane Katrina, acted as a chief medical officer. He stated he expected the mission of the facility would be fluid, offered the scenarios.

“I think that what we did, while not a big number, was quite needed at that time and location,” he said.

Sims, the primary nursing officer, took a comparable view. She was charged with training workers, consisting of nurses fresh out of school and Emergency medical technicians who didn’t work in health center settings. A few of the EMTs she trained are now looking after patients at San Quentin State Jail, the site of a significant breakout, she said.

“In healthcare, you plan for the worst-case situation, and anything that occurs much better than that you say, ‘Hallelujah,'” Sims said.

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