MELROSE, Ill. –
A team from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), along with additional Soldiers, and contractors had less than three weeks to convert a hospital to an alternate care facility (ACF) that can hold a total 430 beds.
Time was an extremely important factor, as varying levels of patient care would be needed immediately due to novel coronavirus disease response.
Sgt. Maj. John Nelson, 416th Theater Engineer Command, Darien, and Sgt. Maj. Steven Lotz, 86th Training Division, Arlington Heights, both arrived April 6 to assist USACE, along with contractors, all tasked to rehabilitate what was formerly Westlake Hospital, and turn it into an ACF.
Initially, Lotz said he thought there might be communication differences between the USACE and civilian contractor relationship; the general contractor, Bulley and Andrews hadn’t worked with USACE since 1944. However, that was not the case. “They all went into this dedicated, and strived to make the deadline while doing a professional job,” said Lotz. “Everyone worked side-by-side and understood the mission to be accomplished.”
The two sergeants major were tasked to provide quality assurance and quality control of contracted work covering a wide range of construction disciplines including mechanical, electrical, and plumbing systems. The pair of reserve engineer soldiers also assisted with the management to the repairs and upgrades of the heating, cooling, and building automation systems.
“My experience working in the same role for USACE in Afghanistan was helpful, because I was familiar with the systems and procedures USACE uses to manage construction,” said Nelson, an engineer from the 416th’s general engineering operations cell (GENOC), with several years of experience in both the Army Reserve, and in his civilian career.
“Definitely beyond satisfied with the results, and how quickly everyone got this facility up and, running in the short suspense of time given,” said Lotz. “Was glad to be part of this project!”
Nelson explained that the Westlake Alternate Care Facility was turned over to the state of Illinois, and the Illinois National Guard April 25, 2020. They will furnish the building, and finish preparations for COVID-19 patients.
The moniker ACF is important to reveal, because this will not be considered a hospital, and will not intake new patients on a walk-in status. Patients will be checked in at hospitals throughout the Chicago area, and then transferred, by ambulance, to the ACF to mitigate overcrowding due to COVID-19.