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Pittsburgh District Works to Increase Treatment Facilities’ Capacity

Published March 31, 2020
Assessing the viability of a possible alternate care facility in western Pennsylvania.

Assessing the viability of a possible alternate care facility in western Pennsylvania.

During the past week, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Pittsburgh District, in collaboration with federal, local and state partners, deployed assessment teams to evaluate the viability of three possible alternate care facilities (ACF) in western Pennsylvania.

The mission, assigned by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) after requested by the state, is to provide planning and assessment for the possible conversion of existing hotels, open-space or dormitory-type buildings into ACFs. These ACFs are designed to be ICU-like facilities that increase the region’s treatment capacity in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

“This is an unbelievably complicated problem and there’s no way we’re going to be able to do this with a complicated solution,” said Lt. Gen. Todd Semonite, chief of engineers Army Corps of Engineers at a White House press conference. “We need a super-simple solution.”

The solution is what the Pittsburgh District’s assessment teams are helping to provide.

“The goal of our assessment teams is to provide the state with usable options that can be retrofitted to meet their health care needs,” said Lt. Col. Jonathan Klink, commander, Pittsburgh District. “We need to ensure the site can accommodate patients, feed and transport them, have space for nurses’ stations and equipment, but also have the ability for us to create negative pressure rooms to reduce transmission of germs.”

State-identified sites can be assessed to accommodate either non-COVID-19, described as low-acute patients in hospitals, or COVID-19 patients, depending on the state’s needs. The Corps has produced a standard design that is adaptable to the state’s needs.

The Corps of Engineers is the federal government’s lead public works and engineering support agency during emergencies. Overall, the Corps has received seven FEMA mission assignments, totaling approximately $436 million and thousands of personnel engaged in this whole-of-government mission, to provide initial planning, assessments and construction of ACFs nationwide.

The effort is helping shape future anticipated mission assignments for alternate care facility support to individual states.

“We are prepared to walk local and state officials through the process required to request support through the state, acquire the funding needed, assist in assessing the viability of sites, coordinate requirements and administer contracts, and oversee construction,” said Lt. Col. Klink.

For more information about the Alternate Care Facility Conversion mission, visit: https://www.usace.army.mil/Portals/2/docs/Contracting/AlternateCareSites/Alternate%20Care%20Sites-%20Implimentation%20Materials-%202020%2003%2022.pdf.

For information regarding the district’s contracting opportunities, visit: https://www.lrp.usace.army.mil/Portals/72/Public_BetaSAM_Tips_USACE_MAR2020.pdf.