Vector Illustration of Essential Workers

Essential Work Status

On March 19, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf ordered the closure of all “non-life-sustaining businesses” due to increased concerns over the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. 

The order mirrored mandates by states across the country to prevent the spread of the highly infectious disease—one that has since killed more than 120,000 Americans and infected over a million people as of this publication. 

Pennsylvania-based Deluxe Modular Inc., one of the premier manufacturers of modular units in the country, received an exemption from the governor’s office, effectively giving it essential work status and enabling it to continue the important work of manufacturing prefabricated units on its 22-acre campus. 

The exemption came as Deluxe Modular and Central Consulting & Contracting, a leading healthcare design and construction firm, unveiled the formation of a joint venture called Modular MD, intended to help resolve the crucial shortage of ICU beds nationwide. 

Despite the intricate nature of developing high-tech and regulatory compliant medical modular units during a public health crisis, Modular MD has committed to constructing prefabricated ICUs that are reliable and can be deployed for short -and long-term use. 

From the outset of the outbreak, local, state, and federal officials lamented the anemic supply of ICU beds amid dire predictions that hospitals would be overrun with patients suffering from COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus. 

As the virus made its nightmarish march across to the United States, beginning in the West Coast, according to preliminary reporting, fear mounted that healthcare facilities were ill-equipped to effectively treat those inflicted with the disease. As a result, desperate healthcare institutions transformed nonmedical wings, including storage rooms, into ICU treatment areas, pitched tents in parking lots, and collaborated with government agencies to staff field hospitals in parks and converted hotel rooms. 

Serving as a sobering reminder that the pandemic had completely upended our lives, the USNS Comfort, deployed as an alternative hospital, remained docked on the west side of Manhattan for a month. A little more than a mile away, a field hospital was erected in Central Park, among the most famous green spaces in the world. About a dozen blocks south of the Comfort’s temporary location, the Jacob Javits Center, a convention hall, was transformed into a makeshift hospital serving up to 2,500 patients.  

The outbreak has stretched the already limited resources of healthcare institutions and has put hospitals in significant financial peril. In New York, where infections soared in March and April, some hospital systems reported $350 to $450 million in monthly losses since the outbreak, the result of expenditures associated with combating the crisis, and interim prohibitions on lucrative elective surgeries.  

In late March, Reuters reported that at some hospitals, orthopedic and heart procedures “can account for up to 80% of revenue, while infectious disease and intensive respiratory treatments are less profitable.” 

Even as some states are moving to reopen their economies, the country remains gripped by the virus, to the horrifying tune of 25,000 infections per day

Meanwhile, public health officials have warned of a potential second wave and the possibility of further complications when flu season erupts in the fall and winter—the latter of which kills tens of thousands of Americans each year. During the most recent flu season, which ended in April, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimated more than 39 million flu-related illnesses and at least 24,000 deaths. To put the COVID-19 pandemic in perspective, the virus has killed more than 120,000 people over a shorter time period.   

Modular MD, which has the capacity to build 300 ICU-equipped medical modular units per month, with production to increase threefold later this year, has manufactured ICUs that closely resemble traditional patient care. Outfitted with antimicrobial surfaces and state-of-the-art medical equipment, each room contains ICU beds, a patient bathroom, data closets for physicians and nurses, and 24/7 security systems for patient monitoring. 

Medical modular units are increasingly being used in a variety of ways, either as part of remodeling efforts at large hospitals or in emergency situations, such as the COVID-19 outbreak. Considered more affordable than a traditional construction project, these fully equipped, transportable units can serve an important function in contending with the pandemic or as a permanent solution to upgrading facilities and, by extension, improving patient care.  

If nothing else, COVID-19 has underscored the need for healthcare constitutions to better prepare for a prolonged crisis, such as this one. 

Amid the outbreak, Deluxe Modular has successfully reconfigured operations to support the manufacturing of medical modular units, with Central Consulting & Contracting providing its technical know-how.