The Delaware Emergency Management Agency (DEMA) and the State Health Operations Center (SHOC) announced this week a plan for an additional alternate care site (ACS) to support Kent and Sussex counties, to accommodate overflow patients from Delaware hospital systems as they begin to experience a surge in patients with coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

The mobile hospital will join the two previously designated: the first on the campus of Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children and the second at Governor Bacon Health Center.

The site will be a collaborative effort between Bayhealth, Nanticoke Memorial Hospital and Beebe Healthcare. The three healthcare systems are coordinating their surge plans with county and state officials. The primary goal is to maintain the surge within current hospitals. If needed, the State has offered to set up a mobile hospital as an alternate care site. Triggers have been identified, as well as potential locations, dependent on surge.

Site evaluations were performed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Delaware National Guard in the weeks preceding the announcement. The Delaware National Guard will provide assistance with preparing, building and operating the facility. The field hospital was utilized during a 2016 exercise, and the Delaware National Guard stands ready to deploy the unit as previously trained.

The mobile hospital can potentially treat 50 to 60 patients who do not have COVID-19. If the site is used for COVID-19 patients, that number would be reduced. Numerous buildings were surveyed, however proximity to existing healthcare facilities and the accompanying resources have been deemed crucial to a successful mission.

“The hospitals are managing the patients now with their current staffing,” officials said, “but we are preparing for the expected increase in the coming days. This location, like the New Castle County sites, will be opened to alleviate the surge on hospitals when needed. We are grateful for the efforts of our partners in the health care systems within the state, the Division of Public Health, and the Delaware National Guard for their continued support.”