Kanawha County requests two field hospitals to help fight COVID-19


KANAWHA COUNTY, WV (WOWK) – Kanawha County and the City of Charleston are asking for two military-grade field hospitals to supplement the dwindling number of hospital beds in the county.

An initial request for the help was turned down in March. Now, the county says it needs the assistance more than ever.

“For the past week, we’ve had 40, 50, 60 and as high as 70 cases in a day. That total number is what makes a difference in making us turn into the red category,” Dr. Sherri Young, Kanawha-Charleston Health Department said.

With those numbers climbing, space is limited in hospitals for those who need medical attention from the virus.

“The hospitals right now are treating people from all over this area. There are about 60 individuals in our four hospitals on COVID. Twenty are from Kanawha County. The rest are from surrounding counties,” Kent Carper, President of Kanawha County Commission said.

This spring, Saint Francis Hospital was declared an overflow facility for COVID-19 patients. It’s initial 36 beds were activated in August, but its status isn’t clear.

That’s where the field hospitals would come into play. But, if the state approves the request, the biggest issue will be on how to staff them.

“Ambulances don’t drive themselves; defibrillators don’t operate themselves; ventilators don’t operate themselves,” Carper said.

“We’ve seen the inpatient census go up for COVID numbers, and we’ve been watching it go up. The big surge we thought we were going to have the magic date of April 24th didn’t happen,” Dr. Young said.

The exact location of the field hospitals hasn’t been determined, if authorized, but most likely would be close to the hospitals in town.

“We’re simply being prepared; you can’t get prepared after a bad incident,” Carper said.

The decision on the field hospital request will first be taken up with the state. It will then be taken up with the feds if the national guard or reserve are used.

Also, with Kanawha County in the red, the state has called for seven days of mass testing.

You can get a free test Friday and Saturday at West Virginia State University in institute.

The two days of free testing are offered by the Herbert Henderson office of minority affairs and the West Virginia State University extension service.

It’s all free to the public both days from 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. It’s located in parking lot C across from Wallace and Ferrell Halls.

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