The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers South Pacific Division commander visited two Southern California hospitals Feb. 9, 2021, to meet with on-site personnel and examine construction progress first-hand on hospital upgrades in support of COVID-19 relief efforts.
Brig. Gen. Paul Owen met with Corps personnel, contractors and hospital officials at Beverly Community Hospital in Montebello and Adventist Health White Memorial Medical Center in Los Angeles to see early progress on work that the Corps’ Los Angeles District is managing with support from the Omaha District.
“The doctors, nurses and staff at these hospitals are on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Owen said. “I’m proud that the Army Corps of Engineers is here providing our expertise and support to ensure they can continue to save lives and serve our communities.”
Beverly and Adventist White are two of four hospitals in the Los Angeles area in which the LA District awarded construction contracts to address shortages arising from the COVID-19 pandemic as part of the Federal Emergency Management Agency's support to the State of California.
Accompanying Owen on the tours were Col. Julie Balten, LA District commander, and David Van Dorpe, LA District deputy engineer.
“We value our partnerships with the hospitals, county, state and federal partners and are working closely with them to find solutions in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic,” Balten said.
At Beverly Hospital, the Corps and its contractors are working in coordination with hospital officials to upgrade a 17-bed wing in the facility for non-COVID patients and convert a pre-operation waiting room to a COVID staging area by adding high-flow oxygen.
At Adventist Health White Memorial Medical Center, the teams are constructing an 80-bed alternate care site on the hospital grounds. An alternate care site is a facility that’s temporarily converted for health care use during a public health emergency to reduce the burden on hospitals and established medical facilities.
FEMA directed the Corps of Engineers Dec. 31 to assist the state in providing facility assessments, technical assistance, engineering expertise, and contracting and construction management support as needed to address shortages arising from the COVID-19 pandemic. Engineers and subject-matter experts in medical facility design from the Corps completed 11 site assessments by Jan. 5. An additional assessment was conducted Jan. 15 in Riverside County.
The results from all site assessments were provided to FEMA and the State of California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services. From those assessments, the state selected four projects for the Corps to construct.
“Many of our own team members also live and work in these areas and understand the importance of the work we are doing because they care about their communities,” Balten said. “And, most importantly, we want to acknowledge the difficult work already done by the hospitals’ staff – the doctors, nurses and others, who are working 24/7 to save lives during this pandemic. They are truly the real heroes.”
ABOUT THE CORPS’ FEMA MISSION IN RESPONSE TO COVID-19
During emergencies, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is the federal government's lead public works and engineering support agency.
As part of the unified national response to emergencies, the Corps deploys hundreds of people to provide technical engineering expertise and promote capacity development on short notice anywhere in the nation and around the world.
The agency has the capability and experience in medical facilities construction and previously performed site assessments for about 1,100 alternate care facilities across the nation and awarded 38 contracts for alternate care facilities across 17 states, one tribal nation, one territory and the District of Columbia in support of early COVID-19 response efforts in Spring 2020.