General contractor Robins & Morton is converting 250,000 sq ft of the Miami Beach Convention Center into a 450-bed field hospital—including 50 isolation rooms—to meet rising demand for hospital beds in south Florida during the COVID-19 crisis.

The Army Corps of Engineers announced on April 7 it awarded the company a $22.5-million contract to prepare the site to receive patients by April 21.

Robins & Morton is a preselected Corps MATOC contractor in support of MEDCOM, the U.S. Army Medical Command program.

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The Birmingham, Ala.-based firm—a leading health-care contractor—pulled together more than 20 contractors from south Florida to support the project. The team estimates a peak workforce of about 250 people.

“There’s a tremendous amount of logistical challenges we have to solve in the first few days,” says senior project manager Johnathan Peavy.

The project was initially scheduled for an April 27 delivery date, but the Corps moved up the date over concerns that patient load could peak earlier, says Joe Forshoffer, spokesperson for Robins & Morton.

Forshoffer says patient rooms will be created in an event hall, using metal-framed partitions and curtains—similar to methods used at the Javits Center field hospital in New York City. Isolation rooms will be covered by an air-tight vinyl enclosure that will be attached to the floor. Each isolation room will have its own negative air pressure system and a zippered entrance.

The logistics of adding infrastructure—including electrical, plumbing, mechanical and medical gasses—to each room will be the main challenge, says Forshoffer. The team also is carefully selecting locations for medical gas tanks, nursing stations and other services, he added.

“Turning an empty space into a hospital in such a short time is a huge undertaking, but everyone on the project is committed to working with the Army Corps of Engineers to get this done,” Peavy said.