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Palomar Field hospital
Rows of beds holding hygiene supplies cover the 10th and 11th floors of Palomar Medical Center in Escondido. Palomar is the site of a 202-bed Federal Medical Station, which is ready for use in case of a coronavirus surge. Photo by Tigist Layne
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Palomar field hospital ready for potential coronavirus surge

ESCONDIDO – A 202-bed field hospital has been installed and is ready for use at Palomar Medical Center in Escondido, but will be activated only if needed, according to San Diego health officials.

County health officials and elected representatives unveiled the facility at a press conference and media tour last Thursday noting that the hospital would only be utilized if need be.

The beds were installed on the 10th and 11th floors of the hospital, weeks after County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher first made the announcement.

Each bed has a single chair at its side and holds a thin mattress, a pillow, and a package containing toilet paper, face masks, a toothbrush and other supplies. The beds and supplies were provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

The Federal Medical Station (FMS) would be used for patients who may be recovering from an illness, COVID-19 or other, and no longer need intensive care, but are not well enough to be sent home.

Packages of hygiene supplies have been placed on each bed containing toilet paper, soap, a toothbrush, face masks and more. Palomar Medical Center in Escondido is the site of a 202-bed Federal Medical Station, which is ready for use in case of a coronavirus surge. Photo by Tigist Layne

Another field hospital with 350 beds has already been set up at UC San Diego dorms, but county officials say they would use that site first if the need arises.

County Chief Medical Officer Dr. Nick Yphantides estimated they might consider using the UCSD and Palomar facilities if hospitals in the region become about 80 percent occupied because of a sudden surge. He said hospitals are currently only at 45 percent to 55 percent capacity.

“I hope these doors on the FMS open for the last time today for your tour, and I hope the worst is behind us and we can start healing,” Supervisor Kristin Gaspar said at the news conference.

Voicing their concern about low hospital capacities, health officials also urged residents to seek medical care if they need it.

“We’ve had individuals who have been so afraid to come to the emergency room that their appendix burst and they experienced major complications,” Yphantides said. “Please do not hesitate, do not be reluctant, do not be afraid to come and receive the care that you need.”

The group of officials added that it is unknown how long the field hospital will remain at Palomar Medical Center.