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120 rooms in the Pavilion have been ready for patients since April 11, but HUP has not had to transfer any patients there yet. Credit: Kylie Cooper

After expediting the construction of the Pavilion at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania amid the coronavirus pandemic, Penn Medicine has not needed to use the $1.5 billion building for any patients.

Construction for the 17-story, 1.5 million square foot extension of HUP was originally scheduled to be completed by February 2021, with expected patient occupancy five months later. In late March, Penn Medicine decided to fast-track the construction of 120 of the planned 500 rooms to create more room for the treatment of COVID-19 patients at HUP. The 120 rooms consisted of 60 rooms in the emergency department and 60 inpatient rooms designed for extended care.

Penn Medicine Associate Vice President of Large Capital Projects Stephen Greulich said all 120 rooms were ready for patients on April 7, but HUP has not had to transfer any patients to the Pavilion due to sufficient space at HUP.

"[HUP has] a number of areas that they could take an increase in patients still before they would feel like they needed to use [the Pavilion], but nobody knew that back in March," Greulich said.

HUP analyzes occupancy rates every day and reevaluates the need to move patients to the Pavilion on a weekly basis, Greulich added.

“We are constantly monitoring our capacity and are prepared to quickly launch plans to move into the new space in the Pavilion should the need arise,” Penn Medicine Vice President for Public Affairs Patrick Norton wrote in an email to The Daily Pennsylvanian. 

While the rooms are ready for patient care, Greulich said some technologies such as TVs have not yet been installed. Greulich added that Penn Medicine would provide iPads or Kindle E-readers for patients if transferred to the Pavilion.

“We were prepared if there was a big surge in Philadelphia, but the fact that there hasn’t been is great news for all of us,” Greulich said. “[Accelerating construction] was absolutely the right thing to do."

Pennsylvania has recorded 49,267 COVID-19 cases and 2,444 deaths, and Philadelphia has recorded 13,179 cases as of Sunday, according to Pennsylvania Department of Health.

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf's administration relaxed its ban on statewide construction projects on March 20 to allow for the construction of "life-sustaining" operations such as the Pavilion during the coronavirus pandemic.

Approximately 500 construction workers completed the building by working in three-shift rotations that spanned 24 hours a day, seven days a week, according to Penn Medicine News. At the beginning of each shift, workers were screened by clinical staff and had their temperature taken.

When Penn Medicine resumes construction of the rest of the Pavilion and other non-essential projects, Greulich said the 120 rooms in the Pavilion will most likely no longer be available for patients.