Officials in Bucks County announced Wednesday that a private athletic training facility is being converted to help ease the workload of local hospitals during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Newtown Athletic Club, closed by Gov. Tom Wolf’s shutdown order, has lent the county a 25,000-square-foot building to use as a temporary medical facility. An indoor training area for baseball and soccer teams will soon have the capacity to hold 80 to 100 patients, including people who have tested positive for the virus and those with other ailments that need additional treatment before they can be sent home, according to Scott Forster, director of the county’s emergency services department.
“We don’t know that we’ll need this facility,” Forster said as he stood with county officials inside the building on Pheasant Run in Newtown Township. “But the time that we know we need this isn’t the time to get it ready. The time to get it ready is now.”
Forster said the beds inside the facility will be equipped to handle patients who need oxygen machines, dialysis, and other treatments that can be provided outside a fully functioning hospital. Sending patients there would allow the six hospitals in the county to remain focused on treating the coronavirus.
As of Wednesday, the county had 400 beds available in its hospitals, as well as 50 intensive care unit beds, according to Forster. Bucks County has had 859 people test positive for the coronavirus, 24 of whom have died, according to county data.
County officials said the concept of repurposing the athletic club came from its owner, Jim Worthington. After closing the business, Worthington contacted U.S. Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, a Republican representing the county, and told him the space was available for use during the pandemic.
“I was thinking more of a warehouse or a blood drive. The thought of a hospital never crossed my mind,” Worthington said. “But I’m proud to step up and give back to the community that has given so much to our club for 42 years.”
County officials said the Army Corps of Engineers has been evaluating a shuttered hospital in Quakertown for use as a similar facility, but had not made a formal decision as of Wednesday.
The corps recently converted the Glen Mills Schools in Delaware County into a surge medical facility to free up hospital beds.