The long-awaited Alternate Care Site at the Kanoa Resort in Susupe was officially unveiled to the public last Wednesday, with the administration of Gov. Ralph DLG Torres turning over its keys to the Commonwealth Healthcare Corp.
Taking up the entire left side of the hotel lobby and equipped with about 50 to 70 intensive care unit beds and over 115 mid-level care rooms, the ACS will be a specific place where all COVID-19 cases will be handled outside the main hospital, thus enabling the hospital to handle people who do not have COVID-19. The ACS will be converted back into a hotel once the CNMI is able to stamp out the coronavirus.
The ACS is equipped with hospital beds, its own pharmacy, multiple air ventilators, facilities for doctors and nurses, an Intensive Care Unit with hemodialysis and medical imaging capabilities, a comforting space to treat patients, and a discharge room.
The public was first given a glimpse of the facility in mid-May. It was supposed to have been finished later that month.
In his remarks last Wednesday, Robert J. Fenton Jr., regional administrator for Federal Emergency Management Agency Region IX, said he is pleased that FEMA is able to fund much of the cost to build the ACS. “Someday soon, hopefully sooner rather than later, a vaccine will be available in fighting COVID-19, but it is reassuring to know that this facility is here today and available if needed. I urge you do your part to keep the Marianas safe,” said Fenton.
Gov. Ralph DLG Torres said a lot can be achieved “when we work together. When we have a unified leadership—and we all agree on one common goal, which is to protect our people, our man’amko, and our loved ones with preexisting conditions from a deadly virus—we can accomplish anything.”
Torres looks back at how the U.S. had a surge of COVID-19 cases where over 9,000 healthcare professionals contracted COVID-19 while taking care of patients. FEMA had earlier projected that the CNMI will have 6,000 to 8,000 COVID-19 cases by June if there were no restrictions in place.
“We are a community that is very vulnerable to COVID-19, and we must do everything we can to protect everyone from this deadly virus. We did everything we could since January, listening to our federal partners, our doctors, nurses, and health care professionals on steps needed to prepare for the worst,” said Torres.
Warren Villagomez, who chairs the Governor’s COVID-19 Task Force, said, “Today is a great day made possible by so many individuals in our COVID-19 Task Force and our community coming together to keep our islands safe.”
Villagomez said that, since January 2020, the Torres-Palacios administration, in partnership with CHCC chief executive officer Esther Muña, was proactive when it came to efforts to protect the health and safety of the CNMI. They increased health screening, established quarantine protocols, and cost-containment measures to stabilize government services.
Patrick Guerrero, the governor’s authorized representative, said that nowhere else in the United States has there been an actual hotel that was converted into an acute level care facility. He commended Kanoa Resort and its parent company, TanHoldings, as well as TanHoldings president and CEO Jerry Tan, and TanHoldings vice president Alex Sablan for “opening their doors for us to transform this space into an ACS.”
“Throughout the early stages of this pandemic, similar facilities were built all over the world in anticipation that hospitals would not be able to accommodate the enormous scale of hospitalizations due to this deadly disease,” said Guerrero.
Guerrero credits the CNMI’s current low level of COVID-19 cases to “our dedicated front-line workers,” and their families. “We must support them in everything they do, while also continuing to prioritize the physical and mental health of the community in order to get through this pandemic.”
The Helios Engineering Group of Guam was the prime architect behind the conversion of the Kanoa Resort into an ACS.
So far, the CNMI has had 92 COVID-19 cases and two deaths.