As the nation’s hospital beds fill during the coronavirus pandemic, an Owensboro woman is working to provide one possible solution: turning now-empty hotels into makeshift hospitals.

Hotel rooms could have multiple uses during the pandemic. They could be used to treat noncritical patients, sequester those waiting for test results or quarantine coronavirus patients, all of which could free up hospital critical care and ICU beds for more severe cases. Also, hotel rooms could house emergency and health-care workers if needed.

Cindy Sheriff, of Owensboro, is the chief operating officer for Trestle Health and Housing, a national company that acts as a liaison between health-care providers and residents who live in low-income housing units. From its inception, Trestle has partnered with health, housing and community stakeholders to overcome barriers to care, reduce unnecessary health system demand and improve patient outcomes.

Recently, though, Trestle partnered with Aimbridge Hospitality, the largest hotel management company in the U.S., on a project to address homelessness in California. Soon after, the coronavirus hit.

“Their hotels are closing down because they don’t have any occupancy (due to the coronavirus),” Sheriff said.

While hotels close because travel has come to a standstill, some hospitals across the U.S. have had the opposite problem. Some are filled beyond capacity as the pandemic grows.

For example, the Associated Press reported that Elmhurst Hospital in New York City had critically ill patients filling intensive care units, surgical floors, operating rooms and emergency departments. A 1,000-bed emergency hospital was set up at the Javits Convention Center, an indoor tennis center was being turned into a hospital and a Navy hospital ship had been called into duty.

During Gov. Andy Beshear’s daily press conferences, he has expressed concern about the number of hospital beds in Kentucky. He reports the state has 18,500 hospital beds and 1,300 ICU beds.

He recently announced state officials are working to increase those numbers by at least 10%, but the need exists for even more. He has eyed hotel rooms as a possibility.

Trestle and Aimbridge Hospitality saw the opportunity to “create a turn-key solution to address this situation,” Sheriff said.

Aimbridge Hospitality has more than 700 hotels in the U.S. with more than 100,000 rooms — and the possibility of even more. In Kentucky, most of the company’s properties are in Louisville and Lexington.

Trestle acts as a liaison between Aimbridge Hospitality and health systems, FEMA and other government agencies that may be looking for additional rooms.

The companies have reached out to the National Governors Association, which has been supportive, Sheriff said. Also, they have reached out to Beshear’s office, but haven’t heard back yet.

The company can provide noncritical patients three meals a day delivered to rooms, discounted fair market room rates and turn-key facilities, according to a press release.

Owensboro Health officials report they have enough rooms for now, but officials there work daily on a coronavirus surge plan, which includes finding more rooms.

Sheriff’s career has spanned more than 30 years in the behavioral health industry. Areas of expertise include employee assistance programs and wellness. She has held many executive positions with national and regional companies, including Horizon Behavioral Services, Psychiatric Solutions, Inc., Aetna and most recently, co-founder of E4 Health.

She has worked for Trestle more than two years.

Renee Beasley Jones, 270-228-2835, rbeasleyjones@messenger-inquirer.com

Renee Beasley Jones, 270-228-2835, rbeasleyjones@messenger-inquirer.com

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