Brendan W. Clark ’21
Trinity College is in discussions with Hartford Healthcare to consider utilizing the College’s Koeppel Community Sports Center as an ancillary hospital and patient care center in response to additional demand for hospital services from the COVID-19 pandemic.
When asked if the Koeppel Center would be used for those receiving treatment explicitly for COVID-19, Chief of Staff to the President Jason Rojas told the Tripod that “while no specific health condition is intended at this time” to be treated at the facility, it is “more likely that the facility would serve individuals receiving treatment for other conditions.” Trinity also cited their “agreement” with Hartford Healthcare which “allows for general patient care services.”
Rojas did not specify a timeline of when the facility would start to be repurposed, though indicated that it “has not been converted yet” and is “an option if the space is needed.” He also stressed that the College has an “executed agreement in place with HHC for anticipated use of the Koeppel Center as an additional surge capacity site.”
Rojas stressed that the Koeppel Sports Center is the “only facility under consideration” on campus and added that the fact that the facility is “located across New Britain Avenue and not adjacent to most other campus buildings” assures that students remaining on-campus will be kept safe. There are 270 students remaining on Trinity’s campus as of Mar. 22.
The College indicated that they have been “primarily focused on responding to the needs of our college community while also fulfilling our commitment to engage in and support the needs of the neighborhood and city.”
As part of that support for the College community, Dean of Students Joe DiChristina previously told the Tripod that Residential life remains “in contact with students to ensure they are supported during this time period” and added that the College has “protocols” for those who may feel unwell or need to go into quarantine or isolation.
The Koeppel Center, which has a rink with capacity for 3,400 spectators, has a 200’ by 90’ arena which is generally used for “Trinity’s men’s and women’s ice hockey teams,” according to the College’s website. The Koeppel Center opened for use by Trinity in Nov. 2006.
Other Connecticut colleges and universities have undertaken similar initiatives to repurpose portions of their campus and campus-owned facilities to support the needs of local hospitals. Last weekend, the University of New Haven announced that it would be providing 250 dorm rooms for first-responders who need to self-isolate from their families. A press release from the University indicated that President Steven H. Kaplan responded to New Haven Mayor Justin Elicker that he “will make this happen. This is important for our community.”
The University of New Haven has also been in conversations with West Haven Mayor Nancy Rossi offering “housing, as necessary, for the city’s police officers and firefighters as well as employees of the city’s 911 center.” The University of New Haven has also offered on-campus housing for employees of their campus safety department.
Yale University has also promised 300 beds for first responders and hospital personnel on the university’s New Haven campus Saturday after previously rejecting the request. Yale President Peter Salovey indicated that the university is “eager to help New Haven with this need.” Yale has also pledged to make expedited COVID-19 testing available for first-responders at Yale laboratories and has donated $5 million to the Yale Community for New Haven fund in an effort to support New Haven.
Rojas, in speaking with the Tripod, added that President Berger-Sweeney is “intimately aware of the challenges and needs facing our healthcare system and offered to be a resource in ways that are feasible and necessary.” He continued, noting that Trinity continues to “work through the logistics necessary to allow for use.”
Hartford Healthcare, which operates their primary facility a mile from Trinity’s campus, has more than 50 locations across the state and has more than 450 practitioners. Connecticut hospitals have also seen financial hardship as the Courant reported last week, with the Connecticut Hospital Association reporting a “total revenue drop of up to $400 million per month, mostly because of canceled elective surgeries.”
President and Chief Executive Officer of Hartford Healthcare Jeff Flaks indicated in a statement that Hartford Healthcare has taken steps to prepare for the “wellbeing of the people and the communities we serve,” citing the creation of a “dedicated team of experts and COVID-19 Command Center.”
There have been 393 laboratory confirmed cases in Hartford County and 7 deaths according to the Mar. 31 COVID-19 update from the Connecticut Department of Public Health.
Rojas told the Tripod that the College is acutely aware of many concerns, adding that “President Berger-Sweeney has been in regular contact with the offices of the Governor, Mayor and our federal delegation on many issues concerning the response to COVID-19.”