Calif. spent millions on arena hospital that saw nine patients

August 10, 2020 – Associated Press – Doctors arrived at an arena-turned-medical center in Sacramento in mid-April and were told to prepare for 30 to 60 coronavirus patients to arrive within days. They spent the weekend working feverishly to get ready.

State officials envisioned the cavernous Sleep Train Arena and an adjoining facility as a place where hundreds of patients could be treated, but in the first week just one arrived. The pace never increased, and the 250 assembled medical workers — physicians, nurses, pharmacists and administrative staff — found themselves wondering what to do.

“People began to question within themselves whether they were really needed or not,” said Dr. Charles Moore, a retired internal medicine physician who worked there for about six weeks. “There were no plans for what would happen if you gave a party and no one came.”

Ultimately, just nine patients arrived over 10 weeks. The cost to care for them was a staggering $12 million.

The Sacramento site was one of 15 temporary medical facilities set up around California in anticipation of a surge of cases that never materialized. It shut down on July 1, as did most others.

But as virus cases started rising again around California in June, the state decided to keep some open and take lessons from Sleep Train to run them more efficiently.

Kim Brown Sims, the arena’s chief nursing office, wrote a training manual the state could use across its facilities. She also recommended the state either create its own electronic record system to use at every site or partner with local hospitals to use their systems, rather than requiring facilities to create their own paper systems, something the doctors had been asked to do that first weekend at Sleep Train.

Dr. Amesh Adalja, a senior scholar at Johns Hopkins University Center for Health Security focused on pandemic preparedness, said California wasn’t alone in preparing for a New York City-like flood of cases that would overwhelm hospitals.

“Many places just went very fast because they were scared and they had the ability to do it so they did it, not really thinking about how they were going to make all the pieces fit together and integrate with the existing health care system and deliver efficient care,” he said…

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