Officials examine Bellaire hospital availability after landlord says no coronavirus patients

HOUSTON – For the last few weeks, Mayor Sylvester Turner has been on a search to secure more hospital beds in Houston to serve relief if the current facilities become overpopulated.

On Monday, KPRC 2 Investigates reported the landlord of the former Bellaire Hospital was refusing a potential healthcare provider to accept patients stricken with coronavirus.

In an email obtained by KPRC 2, a vice president of Colony Capital, the landlord of the facility, said that they were only interested in “non-positive COVID-19 patients” at the facility.

The landlord may not have a choice.

“If we need the space, we need the space, if we get to that point,” Mayor Turner said Wednesday at City Hall. He said he hoped the position of excluding COVID-19 patients would be reevaluated.

Advanced Diagnostics Healthcare was turned down by Colony Capital, according to Chief Operating Officer Robert Turner.

“We thought we had a great plan,” he said.

Not accepting coronavirus patients is a practice Dr. Raj Thakur, the Chief Medical Officer for Advanced Diagnostics, was unaware of in Houston. He was not able to identify any hospital in the area not accepting COVID-19 patients.

“No. In fact, we are all anticipating a pretty large wave,” Thakur said.

No COVID-19 patients?

Colony Capital said they were concerned over the safety of another tenant.

"Our primary concern is the health, safety and welfare of our existing tenant, which currently has at-risk patients, as well as healthcare providers who are neither trained nor equipped to safely operate in a facility exposed to COVID-19 infections,” a representative for Colony Capital wrote to KPRC 2 Investigates Wednesday night.

Dr. Thakur addressed the issue of safety at the facility Monday.

“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," he said.

Advanced Diagnostics unveiled 17 new beds along with the protective equipment they were using to transform a portion of their River Oaks complex into a COVID-19 facility.

Robert Turner said his team is ready to expand to the Bellaire facility.

“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.”

Advanced Diagnostics also had to weigh a monthly rent increase of $30,000 by the landlord, Colony Capital.

Totaling a monthly fee of $80,000, Robert Turner said.

“This is absolutely and categorically false,” a Colony Capital representative said.

KPRC 2 Investigates has learned the Harris County Attorney’s Office has been discussing the issue as well.

Edward Pollard, a council member for the district where the hospital is located, said providing healthcare to sick Houstonians is a priority.

"The sooner we do everything we can to combat the virus then the sooner we can get back to normal that will go a long way,” he said.

After sending an email to Colony Capital Wednesday afternoon, Pollard told KPRC 2 Investigates the situation appears to be working towards a resolution.

Pollard said Colony Capital is willing to offer rooms at the Bellaire facility once all the hospital beds at the Texas Medical Center are filled.