Construction crews will soon begin extensive work on De Paul Health Center in northeast Morgan Hill, as the county approved a $25 million “emergency repair project” to reopen the former hospital building.

The Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously May 5 to approve the project. The approval included a declaration of an emergency due to the ongoing Covid-19 public health crisis, allowing the county to forego the normal bid solicitation and contracting process in order to expedite the construction.

The bid and contracting process would otherwise slow down the beginning of construction by at least one month, according to a count staff report.

The supervisors’ vote also included awarding a $25 million contract to SBAY Construction, Inc., to complete the De Paul project.

“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,” reads a county staff report attached to the May 5 supervisors’ meeting agenda. “While the number of cases in the county are currently stabilizing, at the time of writing this report it is still increasing, and the administration must therefore take steps to ensure that county hospitals are prepared for a surge in need.”

The county’s facilities and fleet department was asked to “bring the De Paul Health Center back online as quickly as possible to be used as a Covid-19 related treatment facility during the current crisis,” reads the staff report. This work was not intended to be a full renovation of the dilapidated former health facility, but rather “the minimum amount needed to bring the facility up to required health standards” to treat Covid-19 patients.

Initial work at De Paul found that the facility had suffered severe structural issues with its roof and wall system due to the use of inferior design and materials used by previous owners, according to county staff. These issues resulted in significant water leaks, deterioration and mold damage over the many years that the facility has been closed.

SBAY Construction will have to work on hazard abatement of interior wall, ceiling and floor systems, as well as the roof, exterior wall and supporting mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems, the county staff report says.

On a positive note, an April 27 air quality test inside the De Paul building showed the air was clean enough to enter without a respirator, the county staff report said.

The focus of the new $25 million contract is to bring De Paul’s former patient wing and supporting spaces back to functional order, and to convert the former emergency department into an urgent/express care clinic, reads the county staff report.

County staff estimate it will cost $20 million to repair these major issues, plus $5 million for furniture, fixtures and equipment.

The De Paul renovation project will not only help the county become better prepared for any current and future public health crises. Supervisor Mike Wasserman, who represents South County on the board, said the expense is a sound investment for the community.

“The county investing money on something in South County is a good thing,” Wasserman said. “It will be a building that can be used and provide a service, whatever the community may need.”

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. Other buildings on the De Paul Health Center campus house an urgent care facility, as well as numerous doctors’ offices.

The county’s health system includes the facilities in Morgan Hill and Gilroy, as well as Valley Medical Center and O’Connor Hospital, in addition to numerous clinics.

Earlier this year, county medical staff conducted limited Covid-19 testing in a temporary clinic on the De Paul property.

Seven new cases May 11

As of May 11, there have been a total of 2,341 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in Santa Clara County, according to the county public health department’s website. A total of 129 people have died with Covid-19.

Also on May 11, the county reported seven new cases since the previous day.

Of the recorded positive cases, 43 are in Gilroy and 48 are in Morgan Hill, according to the county’s website. San Jose residents account for 1,543 of the positive cases in Santa Clara County.

Nearly 42,000 Santa Clara County residents have been tested for Covid-19.

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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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