Tampa General Hospital to ask Hillsborough County to help fund permanent COVID-19 ICU

Hillsborough County officials say a new COVID-19 intensive care unit could be built at Tampa General Hospital and the county’s portion of the funding could be approved Wednesday.

The plan asks Hillsborough County to contribute $4.5 million to the $8.2-million center.

“You listen to the scientists that we talk to, all of the doctors, epidemiologists; this COVID-19 is not going away anytime soon,” explained Les Miller, Hillsborough County Commission chairman.

Miller said commissioners could approve $4.5 million in federal CARES Act money for the project.

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Plans call for the renovation of Tampa General’s former rehabilitation hospital with 59 beds for intensive care and 45 more beds for surges of the coronavirus.

Miller fears the coming flu season could bring a wave of new sickness when combined with coronavirus.

“We’re talking about a twin-demic and it could very well be a dangerous twin-demic,” he said. “So I know the people over at Tampa General will be moving as fast as they can to get this accomplished.”

Under the plan, Tampa General Hospital would also supply free COVID-19 tests to Hillsborough County sheriff’s deputies, firefighters and paramedics, and other front-line county employees.

Miller said he expects commissioners to vote on the funding during its regular meeting Wednesday, as Hillsborough County and its largest hospital prepare for a pandemic that some believe could last for many months and even years.