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Tampa General to add coronavirus treatment unit

Federal CARES Act dollars to cover half of the $8.2 million center.
Tampa General Hospital is pictured on Thursday, July 16, 2020.
Tampa General Hospital is pictured on Thursday, July 16, 2020. [ IVY CEBALLO | Times ]
Published Oct. 19, 2020
Updated Oct. 19, 2020

TAMPA — Tampa General Hospital is creating a new, center for infectious diseases to treat COVID-19 patients.

The hospital is renovating an existing building to create a 59-bed intensive care unit and up to 45 so-called “surge readiness” beds dedicated to treating COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.

Hillsborough County is expected to contribute up to $4.5 million in federal CARES Act dollars to cover half of the construction and equipment costs. The project has an estimated price tag of $8.2 million. The renovations will be the medical center’s former rehabilitation hospital in a building that is owned by the county, but leased to Tampa General.

"It’s not going anywhere. It appears COVID is here to stay,'' Commission Chairman Les Miller Jr. said Monday. “I don’t know if that means forever, or it’s going to be two, three, four, five years. That being the case...it’s important we have these additional (intensive care unit) beds available” particularly with the flu season approaching, he said.

An added benefit will be the county’s ability to get its front-line workers tested for the cornavirus, Miller said. As part of the arrangement, the hospital will provide up to 500 weekly coronavirus tests for Hillsborough County and Hillsborough Sheriff’s Office employees for the next three years and purchase two mobile testing units.

The plan drew support from within the medical community dealing with the pandemic.

"It is clear COVID-19 will affect our community for years to come. The new Center for Infectious Diseases initiative began as part of the emergency response to the pandemic, but now will be incorporated into (the hospital’s) long-term strategy to keep the Tampa Bay area safe,'' according to a letter to the county from Drs. Charles Lockwood, dean of the Morsani College of Medicine at the University of South Florida and Kami Kim, director of the division of infectious diseases and internal medicine at the medical school.

The 1,006-bed non-profit Tampa General Hospital is the primary teaching hospital for the Morsani College of Medicine.

Dr. Douglas Holt, director of the state Health Department for Hillsborough County, likened the new center to the hospital’s burn treatment unit that provides a regional resource.

"This is an extremely valuable public health asset,'' Holt said in a letter to Hillsborough County Administrator Bonnie Wise.

Hillsborough County commissioners will be asked to authorize the CARES Act spending Wednesday. The contract includes up $3,257,514 for renovations to four floors of the annex. Payments for equipment and technology expenses are capped at $1,246,643.

More than 2,000 COVID-19 patients have been hospitalized in Hillsborough County since March 1. State Health Department data released Monday showed more than 45,500 cases and 756 deaths in Hillsborough since the pandemic began.

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