Delaware County is looking for an estimated 700 volunteers to help operate a medical site, built inside the shuttered Glen Mills Schools, for those not suffering from COVID-19 — to lighten the load on hospitals during a potential regional surge of coronavirus patients.
Last week, a bipartisan group of local members of Congress — led by Democratic U.S. Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon of Delaware County — wrote to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) asking for approval of the site as a federal emergency station.
Joining Scanlon were Pennsylvania Democrats Sen. Bob Casey, Reps. Dwight Evans, Madeleine Dean and Chrissy Houlahan — and Republicans Sen. Pat Toomey and Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick.
“Based on the observed progression of COVID-19, we expect that hospitals in our region will require significant assistance from a Federal Medical Station in order to provide high quality care to our constituents,” the group wrote to FEMA.
Christopher Spriggs, acting Glen Mill Schools school director, said a Federal Medical Station (FMS) — built to serve the greater Philadelphia region — was set up in the school’s 86,000-square-foot recreation center during the weekend, but won’t be used “if we don’t need to use it.”
“The Federal Medical Station was sent to us by FEMA and it was brought in by three tractor-trailers and put up over the weekend,” Spriggs told Delaware Valley Journal. “We’ve had the Army National Guard, first responders, Delaware County Emergency Services and the FOP [Fraternal Order of Police] putting it together. It’s been a huge collaborative effort.”
An FMS is a movable facility that can provide surge beds to support healthcare systems anywhere in the U.S. that are impacted by disasters or public health emergencies.
“It’s here, we’re preparing for a potential surge [of the virus] in the hospitals, so this is a place patients could go who are not COVID-19 positive and that have acuity,” Spriggs said. “And they can come here if they are well enough to leave the hospital, but not quite well enough to go to their home.”
Spriggs said the FMS can accommodate 314 patients, with 250 adult beds and others reserved for geriatric and pediatric patients, plus cribs for babies.
“I think it’s important to note that the Glenn Mill Schools is happy to serve during this time of need,” he said. “No matter what it takes we’re willing to step in, step up and support this effort to mitigate the pandemic.”
Glen Mill Schools was once one of the most highly regarded reform schools in the country, until allegations of abuse forced its closure last year. Spriggs said the school is on 800 acres, which leaves plenty of room for medical helicopters to land.
The site will be staffed by professionals from participating healthcare systems, but it will need support volunteers, according to county and state health officials. Delaware County says there is an urgent need for volunteers including:
- Active and retired medical and healthcare professionals such as doctors, nurses, dentists, pharmacists and veterinarians;
- Medical and nursing students;
- Behavioral health professionals; and
- Support, administrative and logistic staff.
“There is a critical need for volunteers to serve their community as we face this pandemic together,” said Delaware County Council Chairman Brian Zidek. “We are fortunate to a have a safe location for our family members, friends and neighbors to go, where they can receive medical care in the event that our hospitals become over-run with COVID-19 emergencies.”
Volunteers can register by going to the Delaware County Citizen Corps website: www.delcocitizencorps.com/ and clicking on the blue “volunteer” button.
A county spokesperson told Delaware Valley Journal that 700 is a rough estimate of those who would be needed to start the volunteer process, with an unknown number eliminated if they don’t meet the Delaware County Citizen Corps criteria for specific positions.