The conversion of the 210th Regional Training Institute at the V.I. National Guard Compound on St. Croix has been completed, and representatives from local and federal agencies gathered Friday to witness the handover of the facility from VING to the Government of the Virgin Islands.
This new alternate care facility was designed to house COVID-19 patients. This conversion project will support the Department of Health and will augment the local hospital’s capacity, according to a news release issued Wednesday by FEMA.
“We hope we do not need to use this alternate care facility, but it is nice to see our collaborative efforts come to life in such a short time,” said Health Commissioner Justa Encarnacion.
Brig. Gen. Kodjo Knox-Limbacker, the adjutant general of the Virgin Islands National Guard, said the goal has been to stay ahead of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We will continue to always be there and always be available,” Knox-Limbacker said in the FEMA news release. “One team, one fight, we will continue to support the requirements. I thank everyone in this room for coming together to make sure that we have something for when the call comes, we can meet the need.”
Based on the projection of the peak of the virus and the number of care facilities on St. Thomas and St. Croix, part of the first floor of the facility at the Estate Bethlehem compound has been retrofitted with negative-pressure rooms and hospital fixtures that accommodates two patients per room.
FEMA Federal Coordinating Officer William L. Vogel expressed gratitude to the construction company staff for its assistance getting the facility ready to serve the USVI. Vogel was pleased with the coordinated efforts that went into the completion of the facility and the territory’s ability to now care for COVID-19 patients if needed.
During Friday’s walk-through, both the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Conti Federal Services showcased the remarkable 20-day transformation efforts of the first floor to a 24-bed, negative pressure, acute care patient facility. Negative pressure rooms keep air pressure inside the room slightly less than the usual ambient air pressure, keeping any airborne virus or particulate from flowing out of the room and contaminating the exterior.
Besides building the negative pressure system for each room, they also completed a full nurse’s station with call-down capability, pharmacy storage station, ice machine station, PPE donning and doffing stations, hazardous waste material storage station, patient care station, patient transport walkway and an oxygen tank storage area. Additionally, repairs and full system tests were completed for the emergency fire suppression system, cistern water filtration system and emergency backup generator.
“We’re grateful that all the efforts that were implemented early on slowed our outbreak down enough to give us time to retrofit this alternate care facility and to increase capacity. Our goal to flatten the curve has paid off,” said territorial epidemiologist Dr. Esther Ellis.
On St. Thomas, work is still underway to add 50 beds to the Roy Lester Schneider Hospital with negative pressure rooms. The ACF construction build-out is a joint responsibility of the local and federal governments, with the federal government providing 75 percent of the necessary funding.
More information on COVID-19, in online at the USVI Department of Health’s website or can be obtained by texting COVID19USVI to 888777.