2020 has been a year of going above and beyond. As we face a surge of COVID-19 in the community, crews have been working seven days a week to build new patient space at Cox South.
The team recently added 36 new private rooms on the third floor – rooms that can expand to 72 beds if the pandemic demand requires it.
Meanwhile, CoxHealth announced on Dec. 7 we will be adding 33 beds to the fifth floor COVID-19 ICU unit at Cox South.
Including this upcoming expansion, the health system will have added more than 180 beds to its hospitals since the COVID-19 pandemic began – an effort for which Steve Edwards says CoxHealth is “forever grateful.”
“We have said from the beginning that we would rather build spaces and not need them, than need them and not have them,” Edwards says. “Our great hope is that we never need this expansion to care for COVID-19 patients, but it will have been worth it to us to have it ready if we do.”
Contractors: Dedicated and focused on the need
Rod Schaffer, CoxHealth’s vice president of Facilities Management, says the unprecedented expansion efforts reflect an enormous dedication from CoxHealth’s construction partners.
“Our contractors and subcontractors focused on CoxHealth understand the urgency and the need,” Schaffer says. “They are dedicated, focused and they are doing their best to get these beds online because this is necessary for the community.”
On the third floor, what would have normally been a 10-11-month project was condensed into just a few months. That’s a feat that is even more impressive because of the technical specifications of the rooms: all 36 are capable of negative air pressure, which can be key in managing COVID-19 patients.
“Negative air is always an issue for infection prevention and viruses. ORs and some ICU rooms have had it, but we haven’t done negative air on an entire floor, other than the COVID unit,” Schaffer says.
“It took a lot of mechanical design to get negative air in all 36 rooms. When COVID-19 goes away, we will still have that ability to switch to negative air. If there are other pandemics, we will be well-prepared.”
All the rooms have double electrical connections and hookup for medical gasses, which would allow the rooms to be semi-private if needed to manage a surge of COVID-19 patients.
Crews have worked long hours, and have faced delays in the supply chain – everything from medical equipment to construction materials – as facilities around the world build to meet demand.
As in health care, contractors face a shortage of qualified staff, a challenge that is compounded when they must work on compressed schedules.
“These workers are in confined spaces, where it’s hot and it takes its toll. It’s damn tough,” Schaffer says. “These guys are stepping up to the plate and hitting it out of the park. All of this progress is a testament to those teams.”