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Carpenters build temporary hospital for COVID-19 patients

Many Americans are working around the clock to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. In Milwaukee, Wisconsin, union carpenters worked nonstop to complete construction of a temporary health care facility. Commissioned by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, members of the North Central States Regional Council of Carpenters worked on a strict timeline to build a project inside Wisconsin’s State Fair Park.

Repurposing the State Fair Park for treating COVID-19 patients required utilizing construction design techniques generally reserved for hospitals. “This alternative care facility will be a critical addition to the southeastern region of our state and will be essential to continuing to ensure our healthcare systems are not overwhelmed,” stated Governor Tony Evers.

Signatory Contractor Hetzel-Sanfillipo, Inc. was tasked with the installation of fiberglass reinforced plastic panels, metal stud framing, drywall and millwork for the temporary hospital. Now completed, the repurposed Park’s capacity exceeds 500 hospital beds, temporary restrooms, dressing rooms and showers. These beds will be reserved for patients with less acute COVID-19 symptoms to alleviate pressure at hospitals treating patients with more intensive needs.

“I am pleased to report, by having a total of 94 Carpenters splitting two-twelve hour shifts, we completed this project one day ahead of schedule,” said Jeff Hetzel, owner of Hetzel-Sanfillipo, Inc. Shifts ran from 5 a.m. to 5 p.m. during the day and 5 p.m. to 5 a.m. overnight.  

In total, there were over 200 union tradespeople working to complete the project. To meet the tight deadline, Hetzel arranged for carpenters from other union contractors to temporarily join his staff for the project. Olympic Co, Riley Construction Co. and VJS Construction Services contributed as partnering contractors. “Union contractors working together as a team made this happen,” concluded Hetzel.  

Nathan Voge, a Local 161 apprentice, was a high school graduate last year when he signed up to become a carpenter apprentice. As a 2019 Career Signing Day graduate, Voge was pleased to work on such an important project this early in his career.  “It has been an honor to work on this project. I love what I do, and this work has extra meaning to everyone involved. It is good to know my skills are going to help the community during this pandemic,” he explained.  

While the work performed by union carpenters was completed in just eight days, overall construction of the facility was completed in just two weeks. The project’s quick turnaround reflects the urgency to assist our already busy health care systems that are overwhelmed accommodating additional patients suffering from the Coronavirus.