Saturday, March 28, 2020


    When the butterfly-shaped Rush University Medical Center opened in 2012 on the near West Side, I took a tour. I'm not sure why; they must have invited me, and I went, having a professional interest in hospitals. I've been inside most hospitals in the city, and watched surgical procedures at quite a few of them.
     Eight years later I only remember one thing about the tour, because I've repeated it over the years, as an interesting factoid. That the lobby of Rush is cleverly designed to be turned into a field hospital, with oxygen outlets and power sources hidden in the pillars for instance, so that should disaster strike the city, they could immediately fill the place with beds and start treating a large number of patients in the large space.
     What kind of a disaster could that be? I mused at the time. A 9/11 attack of some sorts. I tried to wrap my head around the possibilities, but gave up. I really couldn't.
     Now we know. On March 11, the hospital announced it's going into "Surge Mode," "as preparations for a potential sharp increase in patients with COVID-19 move into a new phase." Since much of the hospital is designed to handle airborne infectious disease—their emergency room bays have doors, for instance, instead of the usual curtains, and whole wards can be negatively pressurized to keep contaminated air from leaking out—the lobby ward will be used to handle non-COVID-19 cases, to free up hospital space for those battling the virus.
     Maybe because eight years ago it seems such a distant, improbable, end-of-the-world possibility, that it gave me an extra jolt this week to realize that the long-planned for calamity is upon us now, and as of Friday Rush is now ramping up their lobby field hospital for the very worst, which might arrive within the next few weeks.


  1. Eisenhower once said “Planning is everything.” What wonderful forethought! Never more needed than during this pandemic.

  2. On vacation a few years ago I met a fellow tourist who was an epidemiologist who worked for the CDC. The subject of pandemics came up and he laughed off my speculation that a recurrence of the 1918 epidemic seemed unlikely because medical science has moved. Not if but when he said, although his more likely culprit was bacterial.



    1. Yellow Fever, malaria and other diseases were spread by mosquitoes. But the HIV couldn't survive in their gut, fortunately. We might not be so lucky with the next killer.

  3. It's great that Rush is and has been prepared. However, once this epidemic exceeds system capacity, all bets are off. Patients will be warehoused in yes, warehouses, tents, public non-hospital structures, without proper sanitation and care. There will be rationing of care and invidious choices will be made as to who lives and who dies. All of us (and I'm preaching mostly to myself) need to take every precaution possible to avoid acquiring and/or passing on this virus or even the best prepared hospital will be overwhelmed and inadequate.


  4. Great story. Amazing to somebody with vision and somebody not cost-cut it out. Great idea. Wonder in the future if we see more of this. Nah, wishful thinking. Great story and great to see you paid attention to the details of the tour.

  5. This makes me ponder what our future will look like in ten years, assuming we’re still alive.

  6. Following up on our Dear Leader's suggestion that we get everybody back to work so that "the cure isn't worse than the problem itself," the Lieutenant Governor of Texas said on Fox News that grandparents should be willing to die to protect the economy for their grandchildren. Commenting on this in his weekly column Gene Lyons suggested that our headstones read "They gave their all for the GDP,"

    And here I was planning to use W.C. Field's immortal line "All things considered, I'd rather be in Philadelphia."


  7. If you seek Chicago's future, look east to New York.
    New Orleans and Detroit will soon follow. Stay home!
    My wife and I lived through the 1995 heat wave.
    Never thought we'd hear about refrigerated trucks again.


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