Amex helps fund temporary Downtown hospital

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October 18, 2004 // UPDATED 4:22 pm - April 25, 2007
By: Sarah McKenzie
Sarah McKenzie

American Express Financial Advisors has donated $25,000 to Hennepin County Medical Center (HCMC), 701 Park Ave., for medical supplies for an off-site hospital at the Minneapolis Convention Center.

The facility would serve as an off-site hospital in the event of a major emergency, such as a terrorist attack or a widespread flu outbreak.

The grant will go toward beds, blankets, sheets, IV poles and other emergency supplies for the 1301 2nd Ave. S. convention center.

Dr. John Hick, HCMC's medical director for emergency preparedness, said his hospital is working on raising $100,000 for the off-site facility in the event of a pandemic or terrorist attack. The money would go toward bedding and medical supplies for 1,000 people.

Currently, Twin Cities metro area hospitals have the resources to accommodate between 2,500 and 3,500 people in the event of a major emergency, he said.

Combined, area hospitals have about 5,000 beds. A major pandemic affecting 10 percent of the population would send several thousands to the hospital and overwhelm emergency rooms, Hick said.

"Natural disasters, infectious events including bioterrorism, SARS, or a life-threatening flu pandemic, even a conventional disaster such as the crash of a large plane, would quickly overwhelm the capacity of the community's current medical infrastructure to respond to such an event," he said.

Besides the Minneapolis Convention Center, HCMC officials are exploring other options for off-site hospitals as well. Hick declined to disclose the sites.

The convention center was chosen as an off-site hospital because of its accessibility, said Christine Hill, an HCMC spokeswoman.

Other Downtown venues, such as the Metrodome and the Target Center, have vertical seating that make it difficult for emergency service rigs to enter and exit the area quickly, she said.

In a prepared statement, Jim Cracchiolo, chairman and CEO of American Express Financial Advisors, said the impact of Sept. 11 spurred the corporation to take action locally.

"We saw the impact of 9/11 on our colleagues in New York, so this issue is very personal to us," he said. "As one of the largest employers in Downtown Minneapolis, we have a commitment to support the community where our employees live and work. We invite other Downtown businesses to join us in helping create a safe environment for their employees."

Hick said he hopes American Express' lead grant inspires other corporate donations.

"We're very excited about American Express' generosity because this does really fill a gap we see in our preparedness and allows us to get one step closer to being able to provide at least some comfort and some degree of care to those who might be affected during a larger scale disaster," he said.