The controversial Glen Mills Schools, closed since 2019 over yearslong allegations of abuse, will now be used to help deal with a potential surge of hospital patients due to the coronavirus.
The 800-acre campus in Delaware County would serve as a 250-bed federal medical station to house patients from around the greater Philadelphia region, county Department of Emergency Services Director Timothy Boyce said. The news was first reported by the Philadelphia Inquirer.
The school would be used first for patients who are not infected with the novel coronavirus and are not in need of critical care, as a way to free up hospital beds.
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“Our goal is to free up all hospital space in our areas first,” Boyce said, adding that there currently is no shortage of beds but that officials want to be prepared for an expected surge of more coronavirus cases within the next 10 to 14 days.
The station would treat people who can’t be discharged to a long-term care facility, those who do not require critical care or those who are stable but too sick to be discharged. If a long-term care facility, like an assisted living home, needed to be evacuated due to an emergency, then the station would be used to house those people, too, Boyce said.
Because hospitals are still the best option, only as a last resort would the station be used to treat coronavirus patients, he said.
“Hospitals are still the first line of defense, without a doubt,” Boyce said.
Approval to convert the school into a federal medical station came after a bipartisan letter from members of Pennsylvania’s congressional delegation to Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Peter Gaynor. The letter said the coronavirus was “disproportionately” affecting southeastern Pennsylvania counties.
“The FMS is critical to our region’s ability to address urgent and expanding medical needs in our districts,” the letter read.
Democratic Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon, who led the lawmakers in supporting the conversion of Glen Mills, said she was glad that FEMA had approved the request.
“As our region faces the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic, we need as many federal resources as possible to save lives and help our healthcare workers. We are hopeful that the new facility at Glen Mills will provide much needed medical support to our constituents,” she said in a statement.
Boyce said counties in southeastern Pennsylvania requested the station about 10 days ago and will now work to get it up and running as quickly as possible, once the resources arrive.
“We’re not looking to make the resources idle,” he said.