Largest of four temporary field medical stations is up and running for non-COVID-19 patients in Edison

New Jersey National Guard soldiers and airmen setting up the 500 bed FEMA Medical Station at the New Jersey Convention and Exposition Center in Edison.PHOTO COURTESY OF SPC. MICHAEL SCHWENK
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New Jersey National Guard soldiers and airmen setting up the 500 bed FEMA Medical Station at the New Jersey Convention and Exposition Center in Edison.PHOTO COURTESY OF SPC. MICHAEL SCHWENK

EDISON – The largest of the four temporary field medial stations is up and running at the New Jersey Convention & Exposition Center in Edison.

Gov. Phil Murphy, along with Judith M. Persichilli, commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Health; Col. Patrick Callahan of the New Jersey State Police; state Sen. Cory Booker (D-New Jersey); Maj. Gen. Jeffrey L. Milhorn, commander and division engineer of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, North Atlantic Division; Lt. Col. David Park, 60th commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Philadelphia; Maj. John King of the U.S. Fifth Army; and state Adjutant Gen. Jemal Beale, who commands the soldiers and airmen of the New Jersey National Guard, toured the facility on April 8.

Murphy has said the temporary field medical stations are set up to afford support for the state’s brick and mortar hospitals in the coming weeks as positive COVID-19 cases continue to rise.

Persichilli said state officials are working with area hospitals on transferring patients with lower acuity cases safely to the field medical sites to create more space for hospitals to care for the critically ill.

“The field medical sites are being set up for non-COVID-19 patients; however, the staff working at these sites will be prepared to care for individuals who may develop COVID-19 while at the field station,” she said.

Persichilli said patients who would receive care in the field medical stations would be patients who may need IV (intravenous) antibiotics or IV fluids and need to be monitored on an hour to hour basis, or patients who have had operations on an emergency basis and need further monitoring for a period of up to five days.

In addition, patients who need physical exams for a non-healing wound and some minor treatments would receive care in the field medical station.

Persichilli said critical care patients would remain in acute care hospitals, which would also include pediatric and pregnancy patients, who require a higher level of intensive care nursing.

On March 24, Callahan had announced the four field medical station sites to be set up in three regions – Meadowlands Exposition Center in Secaucus, New Jersey Convention and Exposition Center in Edison, Atlantic City Convention Center in Atlantic City, and periodically the state police’s urban search and rescue facility, with locations to be determined.

The first field medical station is up and running at the Meadowlands Exposition Center in Secaucus with 250 beds.

Murphy had said officials from a strategic centralized standpoint made the decision to double the amount of beds in Edison.

“We still have four field medical station sites as we promised, the Army Corps [of Engineers] is working mightily with FEMA [Federal Emergency Management Agency], the state police and Department of Health,” he said.

Persichilli said level one trauma centers in each region with organized resources and needs, are well-positioned with the ability for ground and air medical transfer transport of patients.

The field medical stations will be led by a chief medical officer and a chief nursing officer, Persichilli said, adding the staff complement at the sites will include physicians, registered nurses, physician assistants, advanced practice nurses, respiratory therapists, behavioral health workers, social workers, and the U.S. Army National Guard.

“The staffing [for the field medical stations] have been primarily through our volunteer portal as well as through temporary agencies,” she said, noting criteria is in place for decisions and identifying transfer of patients.

Murphy and Persichilli said there is a continued need for people with experience to serve as chief medical and nursing officers, physicians and respiratory therapists. The governor noted the positions are paid positions.

Mayor Thomas Lankey issued a statement of appreciation to Gov. Phil Murphy and his team for their leadership during the public health crisis.

“The Field Medical Station at the New Jersey Convention and Exposition Center will help provide some needed relief for our hospital system and for our heroic healthcare professionals,” he said. “So many people have sacrificed on the frontlines, including our police and fire, our teachers, our grocery store workers and our doctors, nurses and hospital workers and so many others and we will continue to stand with them to help serve Edison residents as we fight this awful pandemic.”

Murphy said the field medical stations are essentially built from a bare slab of concrete floor and within a matter of days is up and running. Local labor is used to build the facilities.

Officials said the field medical station at the Atlantic City Convention Center is expected to be open on April 14.

The state currently has 18,433 acute care beds including 2,000 beds for critical care. Additionally, state officials are working on bringing closed hospitals back into service adding 1,360 additional beds.

Murphy said acute care hospital systems are finding creative ways to create more beds. Hunterdon Medical Center increased its bed capacity from 178 to 366 beds and 70 beds have been converted for non-COVID-19 patients. Hackensack Meridian Health and its hospitals have more than tripled negative pressure beds from 278 to 869 and at Hackensack University Medical Center critical care capacity has gone from 48 to 191.

In total, New Jersey will have an extra 1,000 beds with the field medical stations.

The field medical stations are not walk-in facilities. Patients must meet criteria established by the New Jersey Department of Health and will be relayed to the site from area hospitals.

For people with experience as chief medical and nursing officers, physicians, and respiratory therapists can apply through the volunteer portal at covid19.nj.gov/volunteer.