By Eric Althoff
ALBANY, Ga.—In an effort to increase treatment capacity amid the ongoing pandemic posed by the coronavirus, Phoebe Putney Memorial North hospital is adding a 24-unit modular unit specifically for patients afflicted with COVID-19.
The Georgia Emergency Management and Homeland Security Agency (GEMA) recently announced a partnership with modular manufacturer BMarko Structures of Duluth, Georgia, and CertainTeed—a firm with Georgia offices in Athens, Social Circle, Peachtree City, Norcross and Winder—on the addition to the hospital facility in Albany. The new 24-unit extension will be constructed in the parking lot of the Phoebe Putney Memorial North facility.
The modular units are basically large shipping containers that are being repurposed for patient treatment. The units can be lowered directly into place in front of Phoebe Putney Memorial North, and from there outfitted with medical equipment. The units—which are meant to be hermetically sealed for long voyages across oceans, with their contents kept intact and safe even during travel over choppy seas—can be utilized in this new paradigm to keep covid patients isolated and thus away from medical staff working on non-covid patients inside the main medical facility.
The shipping containers have been retrofitted such that they are outfitted with washable ceilings and other surfaces that can be treated to avoid the further spread of pathogens. Furthermore, the units are outfitted with HVAC, plumbing and insulation for various weather patterns that can range from the chilly to Georgia’s notorious summer heat and humidity. This way, patients suffering from the coronavirus can also be treated in an intensive care setting that is comfortable as well as keeping the virus from spreading as much as possible.
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp announced the gradual relaxation of certain social distancing requirements throughout the state late in April. This meant that certain businesses, including nail salons, massage parlors, gyms, bowling alleys and certain restaurants and movie theaters, were allowed to reopen. However, given sporadic outbreaks of the coronavirus in various other areas of the world that have tentatively reopened—including a recent hotspot in Seoul, South Korea, due to eager young people flooding back into recently reopened nightclubs, which have since been re-shuttered—it is uncertain how long or how extensive Kemp’s dictum will be. Furthermore, Kemp’s policies are at odds with those of Atlanta’s mayor, Keisha Lance Bottoms, who advises continued caution in Georgia’s capital and largest city.
A second similar modular structure is being planned for another hospital in Macon, Georgia, in the weeks to come. The Peach State has so far recorded over 34,000 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus and nearly 1,500 deaths, according to the Georgia Department of Public Health. Efforts such as those at the Phoebe Putney Memorial North facility are meant to help the state ease its path in treating future cases of covid-19 throughout the state.