LOS ANGELES – The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Los Angeles District led a final inspection of work April 22 at Mission Community Hospital in Panorama City, California, as part of the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s support to California in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Mission hospital was the last of three hospitals in the Los Angeles area receiving additions under California’s COVID-19 major disaster declaration.
The Corps and its contractor built two alternate care facilities adjacent to the hospital – one, a 24-bed facility for COVID-acute patients, and the second, a 10-bed facility for Non-COVID, non-acute patients.
Two other LA-area hospitals completed under the FEMA mission were Adventist Health White Memorial Medical Center in Boyle Heights, which received its final inspection April 16, and Beverly Community Hospital in Montebello, California, which received its final inspection March 19.
At Adventist Health White Memorial Medical Center, the Corps and its contractor built an 80-bed alternate care facility and all supporting utilities. At Beverly Community Hospital, the team converted the hospital’s west wing to provide a 17-room NON-COVID area, and converted the hospital’s day care waiting room to a COVID staging area, by adding high-flow oxygen and converting the area to negative pressure.
The Corps deployed to the Los Angeles area Jan. 1 as part of FEMA’s support to the State of California under the COVID-19 major disaster declaration. Several LA-area hospitals were having oxygen system issues and overcapacity due to the surge in COVID-19 patients at that time.
The Los Angeles District received support from the Rapid Response Technical Center of Expertise at the Corps’ Omaha District to expedite the work at the hospitals.
“I am grateful and thankful for all the parties involved who helped this project succeed,” said Martin Reed, contracting officer’s representative with Omaha District’s Rapid Response Technical Center of Expertise. “We had a few speed bumps along the way, but we mitigated them to the best of our ability.”
Reed previously managed the Corps’ work at Beverly Community Hospital.
Those taking part in the inspections included FEMA, the California Department of Public Health, California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services, California Department of General Services, Los Angeles Department of Public Works and representatives with the Los Angeles Economic Development Department, along with the Corps and its contractors.
During the final inspection of each hospital, representatives from the various agencies verified the contractor met all of the construction requirements and that all installed systems were operating and ready for use by the hospitals.
Ricardo Vazquez, economic policy specialist with the City of Los Angeles Mayor’s office, observed the work that had been completed at the two of the hospitals – Adventist Health White Memorial and Mission Community.
“We were going through the winter COVID surge, and both of these communities here in Panorama City and in Boyle heights were two areas of our city that were hit the hardest by COVID,” he said.
Mara Bryant, operations executive at Adventist Health White Memorial Medical Center, joined the team as it observed and evaluated the work at the hospital.
“We’re actually very excited to see the completion of this facility,” Bryant said. “None of us know what’s going to happening with COVID next. There are different parts of the U.S. that are actually under a surge again. We never take for granted that it could be us in the next month or two, when the flu season hits again in the fall, but that can definitely happen in our neighborhood, and we will be ready.”
Bryant said she hopes other areas of the country won’t experience the surge her community faced in January and added she hopes the newly constructed alternate care facility at White Memorial also can function as a vaccination center in the community.
“We are working with FEMA in a mass vaccination (initiative) and are hoping to take the facility and use it for a mass vaccination site,” she said. “We will be able to vaccinate 5,000 people per day through this building.”
An additional certification inspection will be completed by the California’s Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development before the facilities are completely turned over to the hospitals for use.
“I just want to say thank you to everyone at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, everyone at FEMA and the different stakeholders at the state,” Vazquez said. “It was a lot of coordination to make this happen, a lot of work also on the sites. I think folks were working seven days a week for the past 70 days, so there's a lot of work, it was a lot of effort, and we’re grateful for everyone who is part of this.
“We’re grateful the city and state are in a much better place with COVID,” he added. “This is almost like an insurance policy that we know that we are ready in case something else were to happen.”