HOUSTON – The best-case scenario for the temporary 250-bed tent hospital that was just completed at Houston’s NRG Park is that it will never be used.
So far, the project has cost $11 million. The price tag could balloon to $60 million if used at full capacity for two months. As much as 75% of the cost could be reduced by federal matching dollars.
But, is this type of security banket worth it?
Depends on who you ask.
Darrell Pile is the President and CEO of SETRAC, an organization that monitors and maintains the medical care capacity in Southeast Texas. Pile believes the investment is a wise one -- insurance for the Houston-area against a situation like the one in New York.
“I think as a community, and as responsible civic leaders the NRG facility is wise,” Pile said Tuesday.
Still, Pile said that plenty of ICU bed space still exists in the Houston area.
“We’re running 1,600 to 1,700 in Intensive Care Units but 2,000 beds are available and there’s an additional 2,500 beds if we needed to expand those ICUs," Pile said.
Armed with that information, there is a counter-argument, not against preparation, but against building a new temporary structure that may never be used while existing infrastructure sits dormant.
Former Harris County Judge Ed Emmett, now a political analyst for KPRC 2, believes that county decision-makers should have more closely looked at both closed hospital facilities and the thousands of empty hotel/motel rooms.
“If you rented 250 hotel rooms at $200 a room, which above rack rate for a residence inn -- that only comes to $3 million for two months,” Emmett said.
That estimated price tag does not figure-in medical equipment to outfit 250 rooms, which would be a sizeable expense but it is well shy of the $60 million price tag attached to the temporary hospital at NRG Park, Emmett said.
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