11:58 AM

State of Montana selects Kalispell for Alternative Care Facility site

Kalispell Regional Healthcare (KRH) was selected by the State of Montana’s COVID-19 Task Force as one of two locations in Montana for construction of an Alternate Care Facility (ACF) to serve the region in the event of pandemic escalation. The ACF will be built out in the vacant third floor shelled space of Montana Children’s by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) under a Mission Assignment from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in support of the State of Montana.

“I’m proud of the continual work everyone at KRH has done to protect our patients, our community and each other during this pandemic,” said KRH President and CEO Craig Lambrecht, M.D. “I’m honored that the State selected our facility as an ACF location. This will be one more emergency preparedness tool we have should our patient volumes increase this fall due to COVID-19.”

While social distancing has had a significant impact on the incidence of COVID-19 in Montana and hospital capacity has been adequate thus far, the makeshift hospital sites will help prepare for a potential second wave of COVID-19 infections later in the year, which could stress Montana’s hospitals even more if it coincides directly with the start of flu season.

"As Montana begins the process of reopening, we remain vulnerable to a potential spike in cases," said Maj. Gen. Matthew Quinn, the Adjutant General for Montana and leader of the Montana Coronavirus Task Force. "The extra capability this facility will provide to hospitals throughout the region is critical to ensuring the continued safety of our population. We must make sure that we take every step now to prepare for a potential second wave later in the year."

An ACF is a facility that is temporarily converted for healthcare use during a public health emergency. Throughout the nation, the FEMA-led COVID-19 Pandemic Response team mobilized the USACE to build ACFs to reduce unnecessary burden on hospitals and other healthcare facilities, help infected patients maintain isolation, and allow low acuity patients to be monitored and treated. The structure would be used for non-COVID-19 patients to create more capacity for treating patients infected with COVID-19 in hospitals’ acute care settings. It will include modular patient pods and nursing stations to support 100 beds.

"The Omaha District will be leveraging our extensive construction capability and expertise to build the additional bed space capacity in support of the request by the State of Montana and FEMA,” said Col. John Hudson, commander, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers-Omaha District. “Ultimately, we hope these additional bed spaces will not be needed. But, if they are, the spaces will be ready and available to support the greater Kalispell community."

The ACF is funded by FEMA without any cost to the hosting facility. The State of Montana is responsible for the supplies and equipment outside of the FEMA funded construction. FEMA is funding the 75 percent federal cost share for the project and the State funds 25 percent.

"Funding this work supports the State’s efforts to be prepared if Western Montana sees an increase in COVID-19 patients, putting a strain on hospital space," said FEMA Region 8 Administrator Lee dePalo.

The USACE will complete their site survey this week. Construction of the basic structure is expected to begin mid-to late May and will last two to three weeks. Construction will be isolated to the top floor of Montana Children’s and will not impact current patients and staff. When the pandemic ends, the State of Montana will remove the patient pods and equipment and store them at a State facility for other future ACF needs.

"If you have hospital beds that never get used ... it's a relatively small cost to have the capability to keep people alive,” said Lt. Gen. Todd Semonite, Commanding General, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. “I can't think of a more noble calling for an engineer."