UK’s Nutter field hospital being taken down, furloughed workers being called back


LEXINGTON, Ky. (WTVQ) – The University of Kentucky Healthcare is dismantling the 400-bed temporary emergency medical center it set up in the Nutter Field House.

Meanwhile, some staff who were furloughed also are being called back to work.

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In early April, work began on setting up the center in case the state saw a surge in coronavirus cases. The work was completed April 20.

But that surge hasn’t come and the state and university have decided to take the shelter down.

The break down will take several days.

“We made the decision because, fortunately, we have not experienced a surge in coronavirus patients that was initially projected from national and state models that virtually all predicted a spike or surge,” said UK Healthcare spokesperson Robert Edwards.

“We announced some furloughs – what we call low operational activity moves. We hope to bring most of those members of our team back. In fact, we already have begun doing so as we have been able to start rescheduling surgeries and procedures,” Edwards said.

“Remember, we were asked to delay those procedures by the state to prepare for a potential surge. If you look at critical care or ICU beds in Eastern Kentucky, for example, a surge in COVID patients would have resulted in a shortage of beds. As a result, we were asked to hold back hundreds of beds in the hospital.

“We established the field hospital to help as a ‘step down’ facility so that as critical care patients recovered, but were not ready for release, we could move them to the field hospital as a final step, freeing up critical care capacity for patients in the main hospital. However, with the flattening of the curve – the result of the policy moves made by the governor and adopted by people across the state – we are in a position to deconstruct the field hospital, while still holding back some critical care beds or surge capacity in case there is a spike in the virus,” Edwards explained.

“We have requested reimbursement of the funds allocated on the field hospital from the federal government. They have acknowledged receipt of that request. We hope to hear soon on it,” he said of the costs.

The state also built a 2,000 bed medical center in the fairgrounds in Louisville. There’s no word yet on whether that will remain in place or for how long.