COVID-19: Architecture Firm Shares Ways to Quickly Convert Hotels to Hospitals for Sick Patients
Dallas architecture firm HKS has outlined the ways how a convention center hotel could best be retrofitted for COVID-19 patient care. Image: HKS
By Edmond Ortiz
Dallas (Dallas County)–Responding to the strain that the COVID-19 pandemic has placed hospital systems nationwide, Dallas-based architecture firm HKS has mapped out a method by which hotels can be turned into a hospitals in two weeks.
The American Hospital Association (AHA) recently pointed out that the surge in needed hospitalizations of patients who’ve tested positive for coronavirus may result in a shortage of available beds, ventilators and other critical equipment.
According to AHA, more than two-thirds of the 924.107 staffed hospital beds nationwide are typically full, and the United States has only 2.8 hospital beds per 1,000 population. Countries such as Japan, Germany and South Korea have a higher ratio of beds to population.
HKS on March 30 released a report on its examination on how best to convert and re-purpose existing hotels for extra patient care space.
“Knowing that our current U.S. hospital bed capacity will likely fall short of the need, we need to identify alternatives that can help offload the bed demand from our hospitals. What if, we could utilize hotels for COVID-19 patient care and sequestration?” the report states.
The HKS report acknowledges it would be very costly, time-consuming and impractical to completely turn a hotel into a fully operational hospital that meets all licensing and compliance requirements.
Rather, the architects explain, full-service convention hotels in dense population centers are likely the best type of structure where different sections could be retrofitted to accommodate patients.
Governments in Asia and Europe have already converted a variety of hotels for patient care. In some places, such as Wuhan, China, where the novel coronavirus originated, hotels are also used to quarantine healthcare workers.
Municipal governments in some of the hardest-hit U.S. cities, such as New York City, have already begun retrofitting hotels for patient care.
HKS outlines potential room-use conversions:
Guest rooms can become patient rooms, and spaces for nursing support or station, medical unit storage, and sleeping quarters for hospital staff;
The lobby check-in area could become a triage station for patient assessment, intake and registration.
Conference rooms and large meeting areas could accommodate medication supplies, a central point of care testing, and support for hospital administration and nursing.
Ballrooms could become intensive care units, where hospital staff’s observation is focused on patients with worsening conditions and those needing more real-time specialized care.
The kitchen/room service functions would remain the same, but a hotel restaurant could become a cafeteria for hospital staff.
The hotel dock could become the area for supply logistics, and for taking out waste.
HKS’ report conceptualizes a retrofitted hotel ballroom as a 48-bed or 62-bed hospital ward. Image: HKS
The HKS report further breaks down how each hotel section can be converted to effectively address care for a patient needing hospitalization for COVID-19 symptoms.
According to the report, if all goes well as planned, much of a typical hotel-to-hospital conversion could unfold within 10 to 11 days, with a few other activities requiring another three days or so to complete a conversion.
Miscellaneous issues to be addressed include removing mobile furniture, curtains, bedspreads and other unnecessary items, evaluating electrical and mechanical systems, and reviewing WiFi capabilities.
The authors of the HKS report admit their study is far from comprehensive, and does not identify or resolve all issues that may come up in a conversion. They add that it is possible to convert smaller, limited service hotels, non-convention hotels and other building types for COVID-19 patient care.
“While most convention hotels share the same programmatic spaces, they often differ in configurations and will require individual assessments,” the report states.
“This analysis sets the groundwork for deeper dives into these topics, each of which will require additional study and consideration.”
The HKS study includes concepts on how different parts of a converted hotel could operate as a place for care for COVID-19 patients needing hospitalization. Image: HKS
Edmond Ortiz is a lifelong San Antonian and a 20-plus-year veteran in local journalism, He previously worked full-time at the San Antonio Express-News, and has been freelancing for outlets such as the Rivard Report.