RI readies Convention Center field hospital as COVID-19 cases spike


PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — The field hospital inside the Rhode Island Convention Center was on the brink of being deconstructed two months ago, but as the state’s COVID-19 case count continues to rise and hospitals fill up, it’s once again bracing to handle the overflow of patients.

Only 16% of beds dedicated to COVID-19 patients are currently free in Rhode Island’s hospitals, Gov. Gina Raimondo said during her weekly coronavirus briefing last Thursday, and they are on pace to be filled within a week or two based on the current trajectory.

The state has been busy preparing the field hospital at the former Citizens Bank call center in Cranston to open if needed.

That field hospital is currently on standby, and the one inside the R.I. Convention Center isn’t too far behind.

Brett Smiley, director of the R.I. Department of Administration, told 12 News last month that the state planned to dismantle two of the state’s three field hospitals, including the one in the Convention Center.

But Smiley said Tuesday the state changed course due to the second wave of coronavirus cases and hospitalizations.

“For the last week or so we’ve been returning the equipment, getting the beds set up again and really just getting it ready,” Smiley said.

Smiley said the field hospital, which is federally funded, cost approximately $12 million to build and will cost roughly $8 million each month to operate once fully staffed.

The state said that number could increase if the field hospital is completely filled with patients. The exact cost per month will depend on how many patients are being treated there.

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