Former Riverside department store to be used as emergency medical station

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Temecula Valley Hospital health care workers screen and test patients displaying symptoms of the coronavirus. Valley News/Shane Gibson photo

RIVERSIDE – A former Sears store in Riverside will serve as a federal medical station to deal with an expected surge of coronavirus cases, county officials said Thursday.

The 90,000-square-foot building that once housed the Sears on Arlington Avenue will be used for a 125-bed hospital using materials from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Riverside County spokesperson Brooke Federico said in an emailed statement.

The California National Guard will be at the site this week to set up a portion of the medial station, Federico said, stressing that the National Guard will not perform any law enforcement activities.

The temporary hospital will ease the burden on local medical centers as they cope with increasing numbers of coronavirus patients.

“Moving out the medically fragile folks from Magnolia Rehab was just the beginning,” Riverside County public health officer Dr. Cameron Kaiser said, referring to a Riverside rehabilitation and nursing center that patients had to be moved out of when a large number of staff failed to show up for work. “There will be many folks who’ll need care when our hospitals start taking hits, and this second station means we’ll have the same added capacity in our western county as we do in the east.”

Another federal medical station as already been set up at the Riverside County Fairgrounds in Indio.

The station in Riverside will include “all the equipment to run a basic hospital.” Federico said that includes “beds, bed sheets, portable sinks, medication and complete units of personal protective equipment (PPE), including N95 masks, surgical masks, gloves, gowns and face shields.”

Some of those materials will be set up n the second floor of the former Sears to create two stations that will care for less-acute patients.

“This facility will ease the burden on our local hospitals during the pandemic, which will allow them to perform more effectively for everyone,” said Riverside Mayor Rusty Bailey. “On behalf of our local medical community, I appreciate the county’s efforts to increase capacity in our area.”

Riverside County hospitals will move stable, less severe patients to the Riverside medical station, Federico said, as well as the Indio station, allowing for greater capacity for existing hospitals to respond to the needs of more critically ill patients.

“We will very soon need every single hospital bed in Riverside County,” said Vice Chair Karen Spiegel, Second District Supervisor. “This medical station will give us sorely needed bed space, so that medical teams can continue their heroic efforts to treat more patients in need.”

Federico said the county is continuing to plan for the operation of the western county medical station, including meeting site requirements for the equipment and locating approximately 30-40 personnel to work at the Riverside location.

Will Fritz can be reached by email at wfritz@reedermedia.com.