Alternate Care Site would provide care to non-hospitalized COVID-19 patients

(Illustration by Julie Freijat | Collegian Media Group)

Riley County officials are making preparations for an Alternate Care Site if the need to house patients with COVID-19 becomes necessary. The ACS would provide care to patients who did not require hospitalization.

“It’s a standard [Federal Emergency Management Agency] designation,” Vivienne Uccello, Manhattan public information officer, said. “It’s to take care of patients for any sort of surge situation or public health crisis. This is something that’s just kind of in line with FEMA regulations and procedures for this kind of event.”

While the location has not been finalized, Uccello said the City of Manhattan is looking at a couple different hotels in town. Beyond being a place for COVID-19 patients to recover and isolate, she said it would also serve as a swabbing station for testing and a respiratory clinic.

“This can be for folks who were hospitalized for COVID-19 or even potentially something else,” Uccello said. “For instance, a patient at a nursing home, if they had to go to the hospital for any reason, since they’re a member of a vulnerable population, they can’t necessarily return to a nursing home to finish recovery, without endangering the other residents of the nursing home.”

On Thursday, local health officer Julie Gibbs said at a press conference that one use of the ACS could be to quarantine first responders and healthcare providers, and that it would be a skilled nursing site.

“If they didn’t want to expose their family, and we need them, we need our first responders and our healthcare providers, we’d want to offer them a place to quarantine,” Gibbs said. “It might also be a place to isolate individuals who didn’t have a home to go to, but they weren’t severe enough to be in the hospital.”

She said the Riley County Health Department has certain trigger points for when they will need to set up the ACS.

“We have looked at those — those are actually established now in our emergency operations plan,” Gibbs said. “We would be able to look at that when we need to set this up.”

The decision for a patient to receive care at the ACS would be made by medical professionals, Uccello said.

“If we have a certain number of people who need to be discharged from the hospital and don’t have a place to go, we’ll say, ‘OK, yes, it is time to put this in place’ if we have demand that exceeds current capability,” she said.

Uccello said Ascension Via Christi is currently doing well in terms of available care.

“Right now, the hospital is doing well, they’re not releasing a lot of patients who require care simply because there aren’t a lot of [COVID-19] patients in the area who require hospitalization,” she said.

While she said the situation is in a good place, Uccello noted it makes sense to look to the future in case things take a turn for the worse.

“Hopefully we’ll never get to that point, but I am grateful that leaders are planning for that worst case scenario,” Uccello said.

I'm Pete Loganbill and I'm the News Editor for the Collegian and host of the Collegian Kultivate podcast! I spent two years at Johnson County Community College, and I am now a senior in Public Relations at K-State. I believe constant communication leads to progress, no matter how difficult a comment may be for me or anyone to hear. Contact me at