Upgrading the gas to help turn a college gym into mission control for a 1,000-bed hospital on Long Island, this was the task given to our teams by the US Army Corp of Engineers at the height of the coronavirus outbreak in New York. In just seven days the job was done and the hospital ready to open its doors to COVID-19 patients.
The call came in on the morning of 31 March to Mike Presti, a Senior Program Manager on the Downstate New York Customer and Community Team. Before the coronavirus pandemic struck, his day job was looking after some of the region’s biggest gas customers; including all the colleges and universities on Long Island. That’s why he was the one who picked up the phone to the US Army Corp of Engineers.
They had commandeered the campus of SUNY Old Westbury on Long Island to build a 1,000-bed field hospital, to help cope with the anticipated overspill of COVID-19 patients from New York hospitals – and they needed the gas supply upgraded fast.
The Clark Athletic Center, a student gym in ‘peacetime’, was set to become a central hub for healthcare workers, as well as housing up to 102 extra beds. To ensure it had adequate heating and ventilation to keep the doctors, nurses and patients comfortable, the gas supply needed to be increased and the meter upgraded.
The deadline to finish the work was 10 days, a quick turnaround for a project that typically takes a lot longer. Mike understood the critical need to move fast – that day the New York death toll from coronavirus would top 1,000 – so he pulled together a team from across National Grid. It included Customer Meter Services, Gas Field Operations, the welding shop, Customer Connections, Meter and Test, Engineering and Damage Prevention.
“We looped everyone in from the outset, so no one was waiting on anyone else to start work. People recognized how significant this project was, as it was at the height of the coronavirus pandemic. We broke down the usual processes, so we could get the gas in to immediately start serving patients and healthcare workers,” explains Mike.
Because some other work is on hold during the lockdown, more hands could quickly be diverted to this project. This, along with exceptional collaboration, allowed the teams to beat their deadline and work was completed within just seven days.
“People really took pride in this vital project, as they knew how important it was to the people of Long Island,” says Mike.
The hospital is made up of 23 pop-up tents with 1,000 patient beds, as well as the athletic center. The purpose was to offer overflow capacity for New York’s overstretched hospitals. “It could take patients immediately, but as far as I know it isn’t being fully used yet, which is good news as it means the curve is being flattened,” explains Mike.