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Hillsborough County approves agreement to help fund new TGH COVID-19 unit

Posted at 4:53 PM, Oct 21, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-21 17:12:28-04

TAMPA, Fla. — A new COVID-19 unit is coming to the Tampa Bay area.

On Wednesday, the Hillsborough County Board of County Commissioners approved a funding agreement with Tampa General Hospital for the project.

“This basically gives us extra capacity during the flu season as well as the COVID season,” said Hillsborough County Health Care Services Department Director Gene Earley. “It just helps with the overall capacity in Hillsborough County.”

The agreement says the county will provide up to $4.5 million in CARES Act funding for the project.

The unit will have at least 59 ICU beds and up to 45 surge readiness beds for COVID-19 patients. The estimated project cost is more than $8 million.

Tampa General says the unit will be created by repurposing an existing stand-alone structure, the previous TGH Rehab Hospital. Funds will be used for building modifications, construction, equipment and supplies necessary for patient care. Additional funds to complete project construction will come from TGH and community donors.

Under the agreement, the unit will also be used as an alternate care site during state of emergencies. Tampa General will provide up to 500 COVID-19 tests per week for Hillsborough County employees and buy two COVID-19 mobile testing units.

“It’s three years, so it’s not only going to cover just this flu season, but it’ll also cover public emergencies going forward for the next three years,” said Earley.

USF Health’s Dr. Thomas Unnasch thinks COVID-19 isn’t going away anytime soon. He says the unit could be useful to help increase hospital surge capacity.

“What we’re seeing here is a definite uptick in infection levels, and as a result, I think we’re going to be at the start of a second wave or second surge,” said Dr. Unnasch. “So having this additional hospital capacity is going to be very, very timely.”

Unnasch also believes it’ll be a good resource for other emerging infectious diseases we may see down the road. But as the pandemic pushes on, Unnasch reminds people to wear a mask and social distance to help hospitals better help you.

“People should be careful and please protect our hospitals,” said Unnasch. “The only way to do that is to not end up in there in the first place.”