Ficquett would serve as alternate medical site in emergency

COVINGTON -- Newton Medical Center will use the Newton County Theme School at Ficquett in the event of a major disaster in the area, the school board approved this week.

The Newton County Board of Education unanimously approved a recommendation from Newton County School System Superintendent Gary Mathews for the use of the Ficquett building on Williams Street in Covington as an alternate care site for NMC in the event that patients must be evacuated from the hospital.

The hospital is required to have an alternate care site designated as part of its emergency preparedness plan. Before, the hospital listed Sharp Learning Center as its alternate site, but since NCSS is planning to stop using the facility in the near future, it selected another site, according to NCSS Deputy Superintendent Dennis Carpenter.

Ficquett is the next closest facility with sufficient space to handle patients and staff, Mathews said.

Carpenter stressed that this would not be for normal emergency issues but rather for major disasters in which the school wouldn't be in use anyway. It wouldn't be like the recent situation when the emergency room at the hospital was closed down to deal with what was believed to be a hazardous chemical situation, he said.

"It's not just run of the mill things -- you would be in a situation where the hospital would be useless," he said. "If we're in this situation, we probably wouldn't be having schools -- it would be a natural disaster."

Such situations could include a tornado or other major weather event, Mathews said.

Carpenter said he would hope nothing like this would ever happen, but the hospital needs to plan for it.

In the event of the situation, the hospital would cover any costs, like providing an emergency generator and other supplies. NCSS would have access to the building but wouldn't hold any responsibilities.