WINTER HAVEN, Fla. (WFLA) – The State of Florida has deployed its first mobile hospital unit in response to the coronavirus pandemic, and it is located outside a Tampa Bay area hospital.
The 15-bed unit from the Florida Division of Emergency Management arrived at Winter Haven Hospital this week to provide additional hospital capacity. It will be ready for use by the end of next week, an official said. According to a news release from BayCare, state and hospital workers are finishing up connections for water, power and other infrastructure to installing appropriate patient equipment.
“We remain committed to supporting hospitals and health care workers statewide. This is the first mobile hospital unit that the state has deployed,” said Jason Mahon, a spokesperson for the Florida Division of Emergency Management.
Gov. Ron DeSantis requested five mobile intensive care units through direct federal assistance in March, among other items.
Capacity at Winter Haven Hospital has been declining significantly in the last month, according to the hospital’s president, Steve Nierman.
Nierman recently told Winter Haven city commissioners that ambulance traffic is being sent directly to Lakeland Regional Health instead of Winter Haven Hospital unless the patient may not survive the commute.
“We’ve been having to do this on a regular basis for the last few weeks as we simply find a situation where there’s not capacity,” said Nierman.
He told commissioners 17 travel nurses had arrived at the hospital last week when he had requested 41.
“There’s many nurses and clinical staff that are quarantined at home who have acquired this virus. If you don’t have a bed with a nurse or a doctor, then that’s not going to help much with capacity,” he said.
On Friday, the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration Workbook showed Winter Haven Hospital had four available adult ICU beds.
Polk County Emergency Management Director Paul Womble said the state is providing all staff and equipment for the mobile unit.
Winter Haven Hospital, which is part of the BayCare system, referred 8 On Your Side to the Division of Emergency Management for comment. A news release from BayCare says the health system will share more information when it’s available, including when the unit has passed inspection and is ready to be used.
As of Friday, there were 299 people in Polk County hospitals who tested positive for COVID-19, according to county board chair Bill Braswell.
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