NEW HEALTHCARE SERVICES The former emergency room of De Paul Health Center in north Morgan Hill is being renovated as an expanded urgent care center with subacute care services. Photo: Santa Clara County

By early next year, De Paul Health Center’s former emergency room will be renovated to accommodate dozens of hospital beds and a variety of healthcare services in an expanded urgent care clinic, with longer-term plans to develop a skilled nursing home in the Morgan Hill facility’s old hospital wing.

County officials expect the renovation of the expanded urgent care center to be complete in February. The renovation includes 36 hospital beds on two floors, with “full comprehensive services for urgent care,” Santa Clara Valley Medical Center Inpatient Acute Nursing Executive Director Sue Kehl said in a video tour of the project produced by the county this week. Those services include a pharmacy—capable of providing vaccinations for Covid-19 and the flu—as well as laboratory services, CT scanner, MRI machine, mammography suite, IV equipment, radiology and digital imaging.

When county officials initially committed to the De Paul renovation project earlier this year, the idea was to update the former hospital for a potential flood of demand for healthcare services due to the Covid-19 pandemic. With an unprecedented surge of Covid-19 cases in Santa Clara County now, the expanded urgent care center will help alleviate stress on the local healthcare system.

The new urgent care center will be able to treat “non-acute step down patients,” including Covid-19 patients who don’t require intensive care, county health department spokeswoman Joy Alexiou said. The new hospital beds and rooms will be equipped with “negative pressure” necessary to treat Covid-19 patients and contain the virus, Kehl noted.

The county does not currently have any plans to provide higher-level acute hospital services or ICU beds at De Paul, Alexiou said.

Santa Clara Valley Medical CEO Paul Lorenz said in the county’s video that the renovation will eventually transform De Paul into a certified “subacute care” facility—a lower level of service than an emergency room or hospital.

Alexiou clarified subacute services include “comprehensive in-patient care designed for persons with chronic acute illness, injury or exacerbation of a disease process.”

Another long-term plank of the county’s plan for De Paul is to update and license the facility as a skilled nursing home. This will be a separate unit from the new urgent care center, Alexiou said.

Some of the services planned at De Paul—such as diagnostic imaging and an outpatient pharmacy—will not be immediately available when the first phase of the renovation is complete in February, Alexiou said.

Lorenz noted that the county is working with providers throughout the county to offer more clinical care space at the De Paul campus.

“We are really interested in making sure everyone in the county, and South County, has access to quality healthcare services,” Lorenz said. “This is a partnership working not only with you as a community, but also with healthcare providers in the South County.”

The county’s initial cost of the De Paul remodel is $37 million, Alexiou said. This cost does not include future projects planned at De Paul.

De Paul Health Center is located off De Paul Drive in north Morgan Hill. In May, the county supervisors approved an “emergency repair project” at the former hospital campus in response to the pandemic. The plans have expanded since then.

“Prior to enforcing shelter-in-place orders, the administration determined that the current number of available hospital beds was insufficient to handle the anticipated number of Covid-19 patients requiring treatment,” a May 5 county staff report said.

Initial remodeling work found that the facility had suffered severe structural issues, which had resulted in water leaks, deterioration and mold damage in the abandoned building over the years.

De Paul Health Center was once the site of a busy hospital, but the building has not been occupied for any use in decades. The east side of the De Paul campus has remained active with doctors’ offices and a much smaller urgent care center.

The county purchased De Paul, located off Cochrane Road east of U.S. 101, when it bought Saint Louise Regional Hospital in Gilroy in 2018.

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Michael Moore is an award-winning journalist who has worked as a reporter and editor for the Morgan Hill Times, Hollister Free Lance and Gilroy Dispatch since 2008. During that time, he has covered crime, breaking news, local government, education, entertainment and more.


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