With room for 20 patients, Doylestown Hospital opened its emergency response tent Monday to provide a central location for those who may have COVID-19.
The approximately 2,500-square-foot structure sits near the hospital’s emergency department, bending off in two sections.
“We want to make sure we keep people safe and everyone receives very good care,” said Mary Whelan, the hospital’s director of emergency services, as she welcomed media representatives to see the temporary facility. Each media member was given a mask and asked several questions about their health before entering the tent in groups of two or three. The large structure is similar to what the Federal Emergency Management Agency uses during natural disasters and other national emergencies.
Erected in just a few days by the hospital’s maintenance crew, it includes two bed areas, one for more ill patients, the other for those who are more stable, explained Dr. Michael Goodyear, an emergency department physician. The facility is fully equipped with chest X-ray equipment, oxygen, EKG machines and computers.
“Our preparedness is very high,” Whelan said.
Patients can be assigned to the tent in two ways, explained Tracey Jefferson, an emergency department nurse. Stable patients who come to the emergency room with respiratory symptoms are first screened by a triage nurse then, if warranted, sent to the emergency response tent. Those with the symptoms who have been seen by community doctors will be further evaluated in the tent, to help prevent the spread of the pandemic. Those with mild symptoms will be sent home, while those more seriously ill will be admitted, hospital officials said.
Dr. Scott Levy, Doylestown Hospital’s chief medical officer and vice president, said COVID-19 has “completely consumed” the healthcare facility, driving it to “build a hospital within a hospital.
“It’s been amazing to see, we’ve completely retooled what we’ve done.” He credited “every level” of the hospital community for the ambitious efforts’ success. From relocating the intensive care unit, to utilizing same-day surgery areas and the gastrointestinal unit, Levy said, the hospital has increased its capacity by 30 percent to 35 percent. The hospital has 247 licensed beds.
“I’m confident we can handle everything, except “an extreme surge,” the doctor added.
The five or more days it now takes for test results have “a direct impact” on the hospital’s ability to address COVID-19, Levy said. Without knowing if a patient tests positive, all must be treated as if they have the virus and each health care worker has to wear protective gear. Of particular concern, he said, is a shortage of small N95 masks. Having properly fitting masks, he added, “is critically important.”