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Coronavirus In Texas: North Texas VA On Track To Open As COVID-19 Relief Center

GARLAND, Texas (CBSDFW.COM) - Just two weeks after taking possession of a closed hospital in Garland, the North Texas VA is on track to re-open it Monday as a COVID-19 Relief Center.

The facility will have enough space for more than 200 beds, and provide care for patients if the medical center in Dallas becomes congested.

Currently about two dozen veterans who receive care at the North Texas VA have tested positive for the virus. It's not clear if the Garland facility will be needed for any patients Monday, but administrators said it will be ready.

"When their occupancy rate gets to a point where our facility needs to be activated, that's what we'll do," said LaTonia Arris, the deputy associate director of patient care services at the site.

She and other staff expressed awe Monday at the quick turnaround at the site.

Donated by Baylor, Scott and White, the acquisition of the facility this year was already somewhat unprecedented for the agency. Intended for outpatient and specialty care, staff said it saved the agency as much as nine years of planning, and potentially a billion-dollar expense over building something brand new.

After taking possession April 3, a task force started planning for how to put it to immediate use as an overflow site.

Blanca Cisneros, who works in construction control for the VA, said there was no time to contract with outside companies. Instead, VA maintenance crews worked 12-hour shifts, repairing sewer lines, fixing more than 50 restrooms, patching and painting walls.

They sourced beds and equipment on rush orders, and some from surplus supplies.

Staff, many of whom have had less to do with non-essential medical procedures canceled, were quickly brought up to speed on handling patients in an acute setting.

"The motto pretty much from the task force that did this was, we can make it happen, and as you can see they did," Arris said.

The facility is expected to be used by patients with less serious immediate medical issues, so the more acute cases can be handled in Dallas.

It could also be a location for elderly veterans waiting for nursing home placement could receive care.

Physical therapy equipment was brought in so there is no gap in care. There were also accommodations being made for psychiatric patients. Daily courier service was being established for food deliveries and lab processing.

After the need for overflow space has ended, crews will go back to work preparing the facility for its intended use, which is expected to be ready later this year.

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