UPDATE: Work under way on Nutter Fieldhouse

LEXINGTON, Ky. (WTVQ/UK) – In an update on a story from Friay, the University of Kentucky is wasting no time in turning Nutter Field House into a 400-bed hospital in case it is needed due to a surge in coronavirus cases.

Crews began work Monday and already have some flooring, offices and even bathrooms in place,

The project should be completed in two weeks.


LEXINGTON, Ky. (UK/WTVQ)UK HealthCare is moving ahead with plans for a 400-bed field hospital on the University of Kentucky campus to care for a potential surge in patients who contract the coronavirus (COVID-19), officials said Friday.

“As the Commonwealth’s health care provider for advanced and critical care, it is essential that we are prepared for any scenario to ensure we are meeting the needs of our community and the Commonwealth,” said Dr. Mark F. Newman, UK’s executive vice president for health affairs. “We need to do whatever is necessary to ensure that highest quality of care is provided to meet the challenges associated with this unprecedented public health crisis.”

Gov. Andy Beshear has talked for three weeks about expanding the 18,500 hospital beds in the state to be prepared for a potential surge in coronavirus cases. This is one of those steps.

The state also has started work on turning the fairgrounds in Louisville into a 2,000-bed field hospital.

“I hope we don’t need them. If we don’t need them we will say hallelujah,” Beshear said Thursday.

Lexington Mayor Linda Gorton applauded the university.

“The University of Kentucky always comes through for Lexington and for Kentucky when we need them. At this time of national crisis, UK is stepping up once again, to provide the health care we need. For several weeks, we have been working and planning with our medical community to make sure we can meet the need … the demand we know is coming for medical care as the number of Covid-19 cases grows,” Gorton said.

“Today, UK is taking us much closer to our goal.”

Specifically, Newman announced Friday that UK HealthCare is preparing to stand up a 400-bed field hospital that will be ready in the next two weeks at the Nutter Field House, the UK Football team’s practice facility on the south side of campus near Kroger Field.

The university said it had been working on the plan for as long as three weeks and decided to move now while vendors still are available.

“We decided if we don’t do it now, we might lose the opportunity,” Newman said, noting the “real surge” in cases in the state, if it comes, likely is two to three weeks away.

Details of that hospital include:

  • Rooms will be partitioned.
  • Standard Sub Flooring System, Nurses Stations, Heavy Duty Cots, Dedicated Break Rooms.
  • Nebulizing Station or Area.
  • Shower Units with Daily Sanitization, Universal Body Soap and Sanitization of Shower Units.
  • Daily Towel Service, Restroom Units with Daily Sanitization, Portable Handwashing Stations.
  • Daily Laundry Service.
  • Temporary generated power to ensure potable water for food services, shower and restroom.

“Mitch Barnhart and the UK Athletics Department stood up immediately to offer assistance in meeting this public health crisis,” Newman said. “They have been, and continue to be, critical partners in our ability to ensure that we are meeting the needs of our community at this crucial time.”

UK and UK HealthCare officials have been working for weeks to map scenarios to handle patient care needs across the region. That work has continued in partnership with Lexington regional hospitals, the State Health Commissioner and Gov. Andy Beshear to address how and where patients would be cared for as the number of COVID-19 patients surges in the coming weeks.

Models of the trajectory of the virus vary regarding scope and depth of surge, Newman said. In addition, how efforts to “flatten the curve” through social distancing and other measures work will impact the need for a field hospital and other responses.

“We have been working internally for weeks on scenario mapping to be prepared to handle the critical care needs of our community and region — no matter the scenario. That’s our responsibility,” Newman said.  “As the state’s leader in providing advanced, specialty care, that kind of methodical, strategic thought process has guided us as we’ve implemented in-house testing capacity, our drive-thru testing clinic and other measures.”

Specifically, state law allows for emergency purchase procedures (under KRS 45A-095) to ensure timely completion of this project. Newman said only one firm, ultimately, could dependably provide the range of those needs in the timeframe required. Emergency Disaster Services (EDS) is a Lexington-based logistic and emergency support services company, which offered the best range of services that could be put in place in such a quick timeframe. EDS, for example, has helped construct and stand up several field hospitals in other states already.

“This kind of planning and preparation speaks to our mission as the state’s largest health care provider and our responsibility to meet the critical-care needs of Kentucky,” Newman said. “This is who we are. This is what we do.”

The facility is called “turn-key,” meaning it will be brought in and assembled and read to go, officials said.

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