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Group ready to lease hospital but says landlord doesn’t want coronavirus patients

HOUSTON – One of the primary quests for elected officials in the midst of the coronavirus battle is to find more beds.

On Sunday, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said it’s a key focus within his administration during his announcement on additional beds at a former Kindred Hospital in northwest Houston.

“We are identifying facilities all over the city, just in case they are needed,” Turner said

As KPRC 2 Investigates reported on March 20, Harris County and surrounding counties have roughly 12,700 hospital beds.

Texas as a whole has roughly 45,000 beds with approximately 10% being ICU beds.

As cases increase it becomes a numbers game, which is why the 77 beds inside the former Bellaire Hospital in southwest Houston are now highly sought after in the fight against the coronavirus.

Robert Turner, chief operating officer of Advanced Diagnostics Healthcare, said his team spoke with the current tenant of Cornerstone Health Care about their plan.

“We know the hospital well. We do procedures here," Robert Turner said. "We spoke to those folks, very good people. They got a few months left on their lease here and they were agreeable to move out, let us borrow, staff, equipment, beds, ventilators anything and everything we needed to support the war on coronavirus.”

Since Cornerstone was on board with the plan, they then approached the landlord of Colony Capital on March 21.

Robert Turner said Colony Capital told his company they’d have to pay $30,000 more in monthly rent than what the current tenant was paying.

The total according to Robert Turner? “It would be $80,000 a month.”

Turner making it clear to KPRC 2 Investigates during an interview on Monday, “Not only did he want a longer term lease, he wanted a premium on the existing lease and then ultimately came back and said he just did not want COVID positive patients here in this hospital”

KPRC 2 Investigates obtained the email where Colony Capital states they have another tenant in the building, adding they are only interested in “non-positive” COVID-19 patients.

When KPRC 2 Investigates asked Dr. Raj Thakur, he said, "Can you identify any hospital right now in Houston that is not taking any COVID patients? No. In fact we are all anticipating a pretty large wave.”

Thakur, chief medical officer at Advanced Diagnostics Healthcare, said safety for others has always been in their blueprints.

“Our intent was to make the existing facility as safe as possible for the patients as well as the staff that would be caring for those patients and with that in mind, if we could make it safe for the staff the adjacent building should be just as safe,” Thakur said.

It is a safety measure already being executed at its River Oaks location. KPRC 2 Investigates visited that facility on Monday as personnel were unpacking and gearing up. They are set to open 17 new beds to treat the virus at this facility near, while another 77 in Bellaire are denied.

The bottom line for Thakur, "There is really nothing more you can say than the good people come out in these situations and some not so good people show their true colors."

KPRC 2 Investigates reached out to Colony Capital with questions.

Tom Cheatham, the company vice president who wrote the email to Advanced Diagnostics, told KPRC 2 Investigates he was trying to do his best to get a response to our questions. However, he did not get back to us by our deadline on Monday night.

KPRC 2 Investigates plans to push for answers in the coming days.