Plans underway to turn Memphis shopping center into hospital

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Officials are trying to turn the Gateway Shopping Center in North Memphis into a hospital as soon as possible.

WREG saw contractors assessing the facility Tuesday near Jackson Avenue. There’s plenty of work to be done, and all of it will be overseen by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

“I’m pretty sure you’ll see the build out on the move here real soon,” Corps spokesman Jim Pogue said. “I think they’re going to be retrofitting HVAC, electrical, water, sewer, all that sort of thing. It’s got to meet the standards for a basic hospital.”

The shopping center will serve as an extra hospital as COVID-19 continues to spread. A peak in Tennessee cases is expected sometime this month, and that creates the potential for Shelby County hospitals to be overwhelmed.

If that happens, the facility will be used for patients who need hospitalization but don’t need an ICU bed. Officials said the site was partly chosen because of how close it is to major hospitals that can take care of patients who get worse.

“People can go critical very quickly, so what’s important is that we can transport them to a higher acuity care center that is near that center,” City of Memphis Chief Operating Officer Doug McGowen said.

The Corps of Engineers doesn’t know how many beds the Gateway facility will hold, but Gov. Bill Lee said it’s one of three extra hospitals to be created in Shelby County with a combined total of about 1,000 beds.

“I believe, based on what I’ve seen, that that will be sufficient,” Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris said.

The other two overflow hospital sites have not been announced yet. Shelby County officials said the locations will be released soon.

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