The Queen’s Medical Center opened two “disaster tents” outside in its ambulance bay today to evaluate and test patients for the novel coronavirus while keeping them separated from Queen’s emergency room patients.
Queen’s officials pulled the yellow-and-white, 20-foot-wide by 40-foot-long tents out of storage to see how quickly they could be erected, then decided to keep them up indefinitely during flu season and while coronavirus cases increase around the world.
They then staffed and activated the triage tents this afternoon.
“At this point, we don’t see (the tents) coming down,” said Dr. Daniel Cheng, medical director of Queen’s emergency department and Queen’s assistant chief.
The plan complies with updated guidance from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that recommends keeping potential coronavirus patients “ideally separate from the general population of sick ER patients that are not currently at risk or infected with coronavirus,” Cheng said.
The triage tents are not for healthy people who just want to get tested for the coronavirus, said Queen’s spokeswoman Minna Sugimoto.
Queen’s is creating signs that will direct patients with cold- or flu-like symptoms to the triage area. All patients entering the emergency room will still be seen by a nurse in an indoor holding area before being allowed into the ER, Sugimoto said.
Currently everyone coming into the hospital — including staff members and visitors — is evaluated at flu screening stations at Queen’s entrances, where their temperatures are taken and they’re asked about any flu-like symptoms, Sugimoto said.
Any employee or visitor who shows a temperature or other symptoms is not allowed into the hospital and is asked to leave, she said.
The disaster tents will serve “to prepare for the potential influx, surge of patients, who are concerned about their health, concerned about their exposure to coronavirus so that they can be adequately treated and not be exposing potentially the virus to other sick people to control the potential spread,” Cheng said.
Multiple patients can be evaluated inside the tents while still keeping them 6 feet from one another in a well-ventilated area, Cheng said.
The tents are designed to evaluate “walking well” patients, Cheng said.
“These are the walking well people to be evaluated rapidly, screened, potentially tested and then sent home for home isolation pending results of the test,” Cheng said. “This actually might be the main triage site for patients that are low acuity. So, they’re looking fine but they’re coming in saying, ‘Hey I might have been exposed. I’m young and healthy. But I have a little runny nose. I want to get evaluated.’ They’ll still be seen by the same physician, they’ll still seen by the same nurse, but they’re evaluated in a well-ventilated area.”
The plan is to get patients evaluated and swabbed for testing and back on their way home for isolation within 30 minutes, Cheng said.
“Our goal is to not keep them here any longer than they need to be,” he said.
Queen’s will help coordinate transportation home so patients — outfitted with masks — don’t potentially spread germs on public transportation, such as buses, Cheng said.
They’ll be asked to self quarantine pending test results.
The goal for the disaster tents, Cheng said, is to provide the “same equivalent patient care here as it would have occurred inside the emergency room. This is the same level of care you would receive inside the four walls of the emergency room here inside at Queen’s.”
For more information: Queen’s Covid-19 Hotline 691-CO19, or 691-2619, provides recorded information about the coronovirus. Callers can speak to a healthcare professional by pressing #2.