As coronavirus cases continue to spike in the state of Illinois, a suburban hospital that closed last year is being re-opened to help medical professionals treat COVID-19 patients.
Westlake Hospital in suburban Melrose Park, which closed last fall, will re-open to help with the influx of coronavirus patients. Governor J.B. Pritzker announced the plans to re-open the hospital on Thursday, and the Army Corps of Engineers will soon begin construction work to make that plan a reality.
"We want to bring as much capacity online as quickly as we can to be able to provide a relief valve to the existing hospital network here," Col. Aaron Reisinger, commander of the Chicago District U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, said.
FEMA approved funding this weekend to refurbish the hospital, transforming it into an alternate care facility.
The goal of the facility will be to treat acute COVID-19 patients, including those with significant respiratory challenges.
"Right now, our planning assumption is somewhere between 300 and 350 patient spaces here," Reisinger said.
The hospital has been closed since Aug. 2019, and while the structure remains in good condition, with may rooms already piped for inline oxygen, there remain challenges to be faced.
"The big difference here is we have to come in and reassess all the mechanical systems for one, check medical lines, all the mechanical systems and electrical systems," Reisinger said.
The hope is to get Westlake fully online within the next three weeks, but officials are cautioning the public that the hospital is not re-opening its emergency room for public use. The hospital will strictly be used to treat COVID-19 patients, acting as a back-up plan for other area hospitals.
The hospital is one of several facilities that will re-open to help alleviate pressure on existing hospitals throughout the state. State officials have also designated Chicago’s McCormick Place convention center as a temporary medical facility, with up to 3,000 beds expected to be in place by the end of the month as construction continues.
State officials believe that coronavirus numbers will continue to increase, with a peak in cases expected near the middle of April.