Penn Medicine is rushing to open part of a new hospital tower in University City in an effort to help with the influx of novel coronavirus patients.
The facility would open 119 hospital beds across the street from the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, a Penn Medicine spokesperson confirmed to NBC10 on March 22.
“Crews are working around the clock to complete this project at an incredible pace – these rooms are expected to be ready by mid-April, 15 months ahead of the facility’s planned opening,” the spokesperson said in a statement.
The spokesperson said Penn Medicine has been “working closely” with Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf's (D) office and the Philadelphia Building and Construction Trades Council to expedite construction while ensuring the safety of workers.
On March 19, Wolf ordered all “nonessential businesses” to close across the state, including construction companies. However, Philadelphia officials shortly thereafter said they would work with the governor to keep construction going, at least temporarily, referencing their desire to continue building at a hospital in the city.
It was unclear if the hospital they were referring to was the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania.
Penn Medicine planned to finish construction of the site – called “The Pavilion” – by 2021, but the current coronavirus outbreak seems to have accelerated the pace.
Philadelphia Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley has repeatedly warned of the danger of the city’s health system being overwhelmed by coronavirus patients. Farley, like other health care professionals across the country, has urged infected patients to contact their primary care providers before seeking hospital care and to try to ride out the illness at home unless suffering from severe symptoms.
In Philadelphia, at least 96 people had been infected by the virus as of March 22. Across Pennsylvania, there were at least 479 confirmed cases and two deaths.
The numbers, which officials warn will continue to rise, also prompted Wolf to issue emergency waivers so hospitals throughout the state can add hospital beds as they deal with the influx of patients with COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus.