Alternative care sites anticipated to cost $125 million

Colorado’s Convention Center alternative care site has remained empty during the pandemic, bringing in concerns about costs and potential reimbursement from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) during an August 11 Executive Committee of the Legislative Council meeting with the Joint Budget Committee.

The state has five alternate care sites in total, with the budget for these sites anticipated at $125 million including assistance from the FEMA if the sites are needed from now until December 30. This figure includes the $37 million fixed cost through June 30 and the anticipated $88 million cost from July 1 to December 30.



The five potential care sites include the Convention Center, The Ranch, Centura Health, St. Mary Corwin, and Western Slope Memory Center.

After Sen. Dominick Moreno brought up concerns about FEMA potentially removing funding for Colorado’s alternative care sites and asking for any reimbursed funding back, Director of Colorado’s Division of Homeland Security & Emergency Management Kevin Klein said this was a minimal risk.

“We work with FEMA on a regular basis,” he said, to ensure all standards and requirements are met.

There are some patient care items that the city will not be reimbursed on, including hospital build out, Klein said, but the state is willing to eat that cost for the continued funding for the alternate care facilities. 

Klein also assured committee members that FEMA funding the state is receiving will not be affected by President Trump’s recent executive order to divert resources to unemployment.

According to CBS News, Trump’s order allocates $44 billion from FEMA’s Disaster Relief Fund to boost unemployment aid. 

The Convention Center has a max capacity of 900 beds, The Ranch has a max capacity of 200 beds, Centura Health has 78 beds, St. Mary Corwin has 120 beds, and the Western Slope Memory Center has 50 beds.

If needed, the Convention Center can be ready four weeks from the decision date; The Ranch can be ready five weeks from the decision date; Centura Health could open on August 20; St. Mary Corwin’s open date would be August 27; and Western Slope Memory Center would be ready September 3.

Klein spoke to the budget committee about current emergency protocols for handling every aspect of the COVID-19 pandemic, including employment security, education facilities, and affected patients.

“We’ve got a team of people from each state agency that practice quarterly leading up to this event so they know what to do,” he said. “We’re able to reach in to those agencies and get the support that we need.”

Klein said they are also working with FEMA for necessary federal assistance for the alternate care sites to help Colorado deal with the pandemic.

“With these facilities, we are creating additional capacity in the health care system.”

Klein said that while the Convention Center is not being used currently, the hope is that it will serve as a last resort alternate care facility.

“It does give us alternatives,” Klein said, “And it gives us additional capacity if we need that.”

Klein said the emergency management team is continuously assessing current COVID-19 rates in Colorado to determine if alternate care sites need to be used.

However, the sites are currently in a “dormant phase”, with a skeleton crew managing the facilities to keep them ready in case they are needed, but they are not immediately ready to be used.

“The sites are there in a larger system,” he said. “It’s the overall picture of what that capacity is in the state’s health care system that these are designed to augment… we’re working with hospital care providers to provide that, but it really is at the end of the day the ability for those facilities to put people into alternative care sites and open up more space within their traditional hospital setting.”