Dallas County commissioners halt $2M payment to operate overflow hospital

Dallas County commissioners put on hold a plan to put $ 2 million down to operate the overflow hospital set up in Downtown Dallas. There are questions whether the facility at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center will even be needed.

Commissioners put a hold on passing a plan to spend $2 million dollars on the overflow hospital.  Many are calling for new data before making the investment.

Shortly after its first case was confirmed in mid-March, Dallas county's case numbers skyrocketed. By the end of March, Gov. Greg Abbott had announced a 250-bed overflow hospital inside the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center.

“Instead of our cases doubling every three days, we've been virtually the same for the last 9 days,” said Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins. “So that's a testament to all the people taking this serious.”

Dallas County was the first in the state to issue a stay at home order. Judge Jenkins says that order is now paying off.

On Monday, Dallas County commissioners held an emergency meeting to approve $2 million to help operate the overflow hospital. The federal government would run the hospital, eventually giving 75 percent of the money back. But there are questions whether the investment is needed.

“It does not appear, last week and this week, in fraternity terms hell week, it doesn’t even look like we are broaching those models,” said Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price.

About half the hospital beds in Dallas are still available. About 40 percent of ICU beds remain available.

“The numbers of people going in for COVID is inching up, but the numbers are still manageable,” Jenkins said. “So we will hear from them tomorrow.”

The commissioner's court agreed to wait until Wednesday as it gets more input from hospitals.

Stephen Love from the DFW Hospital Council has been advising the county during the pandemic. He says the hospitals are currently checking their models.

Just last week, there was concern over the county losing the federal resources for the hospital. Gov. Greg Abbott sent a letter concerned that Judge Jenkins didn't want it. Jenkins denied that claim. He said the county didn't need the hospital yet.

And while county leaders wait for updated hospitalization numbers, county leaders want people to continue to heed stay at home orders.

“It is all contingent upon people doing stay home stay safe,” said Dr. Phil Huang. “It still says the peak is end of April, early May.”

Of the $2 million that would be spent, the federal government says it will reimburse the county for 75 percent of the cost.