In Concord, new hotel offered to house patients if COVID-19 cases cause overflow at hospital

  • The gym at Southern New Hampshire University in Manchester is filled with portable beds for the clinical surge flex area in case of an overload of COVID-19 patients. Regular medical patients would come to this facility so that the two Manchester hospitals could concentrate on serious cases.

  • ABOVE: Gov. Chris Sununu looks over the area at the Stan Spirou Fieldhouse on the Southern New Hampshire University.

  • Major General David J. Mikolaities, the adjutant general of the New Hampshire National Guard, talks with Gov. Chris Sununu at the Stan Spirou Fieldhouse on the Southern New Hampshire University in Manchester, where portable beds are set up for the clinical surge flex area in case of an overload of COVID-19 patients at both Catholic Medical Center and/or Elliot Hospital. GEOFF FORESTER photos / Monitor staff

  • Go. Chris Sununu talks with hospital and National Guard officials at the Stan Spirou Fieldhouse at Southern New Hampshire University in Manchester, where portable beds are set up for the clinical surge flex area in case of an overload of COVID-19 patients at Manchester hospitals. Regular medical patients would come to this facility so that the two Manchester hospitals could concentrate on serious COVID patients. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

  • TOP: The new Tru by Hilton built by Steve Duprey will be used as beds for the clinical surge flex area if needed.

Monitor staff
Published: 3/25/2020 5:10:39 PM

As New Hampshire health officials ready hospitals for an expected rise in coronavirus infections in the coming weeks, a top priority is where to put excess patients. 

In Manchester, that means Southern New Hampshire University, which this week opened up as a “flex area” with 250 additional beds. 

In Concord, it could mean a hotel.

Local developer Steve Duprey has offered up to the state the brand new Tru by Hilton hotel as a potential site to set up hospital patients should the COVID-19 virus consume the majority of space at Concord Hospital, he said Tuesday. 

“We’ve spoken with state government officials and local hospital officials to say that if they need the Hilton Tru as additional hospital space that we’d be happy to make that arrangement to do so,” Duprey said. 

Located at South Main Street near I-93’s Exit 13, the Tru by Hilton is an 85-room hotel that was supposed to open for business April 1. 

Amid widespread travel cancellations and public advisories to stay home as much as possible, those plans have been delayed, Duprey said. 

“We’re certainly not going to open it as a hotel any time soon, so if we can help the city and the state, we obviously want to do our part,” he said

The hotel is completed, and it has one advantage for hospital staff: no carpets. The hotel’s tiled floor design makes it easier for hospital employees to clean, Duprey said.

Additionally, every room has its own air-handling system, including cooling and heating, which Duprey said should be a boost for the hospital. 

“We could turn over the entire place,” Duprey said. “It’s got kitchen rooms and things like that.” 

Duprey said he had offered the site up to the Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. National Guard, who are working together to create and designate eight “flex” sites across the state. 

Both of them had been in touch, he added. 

Those sites are not meant to house COVID-19 patients themselves, but rather to provide bed spaces to give hospitals the flexibility they need to free up space for patients with the virus.

On Tuesday, Gov. Chris Sununu toured the makeshift hospital facility at SNHU – which is not in use yet but is now stocked with beds. 

Rows and rows of green and blue collapsible cots have been set up in the university’s field house, each four or five feet apart, with towels and trolleys at the ready. 

Sununu said the first “clinical surge flex area,” prioritized due to the expected high needs of the Manchester area, had come together in about 72 hours. 

“What has been turned around from an idea to what you see before us today is absolutely incredible,” he said. 

Concord Hospital is hoping to help roll out a flex area in the city by next week, said Dr. Matthew Gibb, the hospital’s chief clinical officer. The hospital has been in talks with state officials over where best to put that facility, but has not yet settled on a site, Gibb said.

“It is very preliminary, because it just sort of came about yesterday in conversations,” Gibb said. “We were notified by the state that Concord is planned to be a site.”

The Guard is collaborating with the state to find a location, help figure out its layout, and find the best use of the beds for that region, Gibb said. Concord Hospital is serving as a liaison for the capital region. 

But while suggestions have been made, including at the New Hampshire Technical Institute, nothing is final yet. 

“Siting is not yet decided,” he said. “There are some locations that seem better than others.” 

A spokesperson for the Department of Health and Human Services, Jake Leon, said that the department has not finalized arrangements for Concord’s flex area but would announce them later.

The Tru by Hilton is one of many hotels dealing with crippling setbacks brought in by the spread of the coronavirus and the efforts to limit travel nationwide.

Statewide, hotel demand is down 95%, Duprey said. That includes the other Concord properties he owns, like the Fairfield Inn & Suites, Courtyard by Marriott, Residence Inn and the Comfort Inn.

Right now, the 5% who are using hotels include government contractors; federal officials visiting the state from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Department of Homeland Security; truck drivers; and some people who are quarantining or isolating after travel, Duprey said.

But Duprey said he and others in the hospitality businesses are hoping to weather the storm. 

“Hey, everybody’s in the same boat,” he said. 

(Ethan DeWitt can be reached at edewitt@cmonitor.com, at (603) 369-3307, or on Twitter at @edewittNH.)




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