Shuttered Reform School Eyed As Medical Overflow Facility

Mar 27, 2020

A shuttered reform school for boys in suburban Philadelphia may be used as a medical overflow facility as coronavirus cases increase and hospitals are pressed for space.

The Glen Mills School has medical and dental facilities, an air field, a generator and a more than 85,000 square-foot athletic facility that could host patients from hospitals and other health care facilities.

Christopher Spriggs, the acting executive director of the institution, said he offered the space a few weeks ago.

Gov. Tom Wolf's administration has stressed the need for hospitals to ramp up equipment, staffing and bed space to handle the expected surge in coronavirus patients in the coming weeks. Among the facilities being considered are hotels and outpatient surgical facilities, Health Secretary Rachel Levine has said.

Tim Boyce, executive director of Delaware County's Emergency Management Agency, told WPVI-TV in Philadelphia that he hopes the former Glen Mills School can be used to handle the surge and the day-to-day overflow of hospitals and nursing facilities.

He said it will start with 250 beds, but could be expanded.

The school was a reform school and juvenile detention facility serving about 200 boys, but Gov. Tom Wolf's administration revoked the school's licenses and ordered its students removed after The Philadelphia Inquirer detailed decades of alleged abuse and cover-ups at the 193-year-old campus.

Wolf's administration said Friday that the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency, along with federal and local government agencies, is assessing a number of sites across the state to become housing or medical facilities. No plans or agreements have been finalized, according to the administration.

As a whole, Pennsylvania has 37,000 hospital beds, although many are occupied.

The state Department of Health has confirmed more than 1,680 cases of coronavirus through Wednesday, and more than 1,000, or 60%, are in Philadelphia or its four suburban counties.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, or death.