Managing Facilities for Potential COVID-19 Surge

Local News

GRAND JUNCTION, Colo.- The Western Slope Memory Care building was supposed to open in early summer after the building sat vacant since early 2019, but there are now other plans.

We’ve previously reported on how the former Welbrook building is being re-purposed for a COVID-19 facility to house recovering patients. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment is leasing the building until January of 2021 to handle any potential overflow of hospitals.

But this development took some Mesa County officials by surprise. On Monday, the Mesa County Commissioners expressed dissapointment in a letter to Governor Jared Polis on what they said was a lack of communication from state officials when deciding to convert Western Slope Memory Care into a facility to treat possible COVID-19 patients.

Read a portion of the letter from Monday, April 20 below:

“The Mesa County Board of Commissioners submits this letter to express our concerns regarding the recent lease the Colorado state Unified Command Group (UCG) completed on the Western Slope Memory Care (WSMC) Facility aimed at serving as an alternative care facility should there be a surge in critical COVID-19 cases in western Colorado, which we found out about via press release.

As of today, in Mesa County, we have 35 confirmed positive COVID-19 cases, 32 recovered, 748 negative tests, and two hospitalizations. Mesa County is not experiencing a hospital bed surge. In fact, we are experiencing more of a financial crisis. Please spend funds wisely; duplicating efforts and overspending is not what we need during these uncertain times.  

The UCG in collaboration with the Colorado Hospital Association, and the US Army Corps of Engineers, without local input, selected WSMC as an alternative care site to be repurposed to provide medical care for COVID-19 patients who have stabilized in-hospital and no longer require critical care in our region. 

As an alternative care site, WSMC will accept up to 50 regional patients who are being transferred from hospitals and health care facilities.   

Mesa County is not opposed to making plans to increase capacity in case of a COVID-19 surge; however, we are disappointed with the massive lack of communication and coordination that has happened. Not properly notifying our community or stakeholders is unacceptable. Mesa County has been denied the opportunity to have proper planning time to mitigate and to keep our community safe and informed.

Mesa County Commissioner Rose Pugliese says shortly after the announcement from the state to re-purpose facilities like Western Slope Memory Care, she and county officials were able to get on the same page as state officials as the project gets underway in the coming weeks.

“Since that meeting, the state emergency manager had gotten together with Mesa County Public Health Director Jeff Kuhr and the hospitals to talk about the plan we had that was already put in place for Mesa County,” Pugliese said.

A representative from Amavida Health, the company which manages the Western Slope Memory Care building, was not surprised when state officials vetted this building.

“Our location was most viable for this process because we have 50 private rooms with private baths,” said Mark Guth, a business manager with Amavida.

Guth emphasized the potential for the facility to allow patients to safely recover in isolated rooms.

For Commissioner Rose Pugliese and other county officials, they say they don’t anticipate a patient surge for now.

“Until there’s an overflow issue, we have more than enough capacity in Mesa County Currently.”

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