EL PASO, Texas (KVIA) -- University Medical Center is taking proactive measures to expand its emergency department's capacity amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The hospital acquired three tents that now stand outside the emergency department entrance that will handle patients concerned about being infected with coronavirus.
"These are military grade facilities to my eye," Dr. Edward Michelson, UMC's Chief of Emergency Medical Services, said.
Phase I: Triage
Patients experiencing symptoms will first enter a triage tent for an initial screening by an emergency department nurse and emergency medicine provider.
"They will get their vital signs checked. They'll get some questions asked and answered so we can determine the likelihood that they might have an infection."
Phase II: Determine if patient should be admitted
If COVID-19 is still suspected, patients are moved into one of the two other tents which each have a capacity of ten patients.
"I have physicians who are using a more secure version of Facetime to actually communicate with patients on an iPad on a stand here in the tents."
That minimizes person-to-person contact and allows the physicians to determine if the patient should be admitted to the hospital.
"My anticipation is those patients will end up in special areas of the hospital to care for them," Dr. Michelson said. "Those are areas with negative airflow and those separated from other patients who do not have COVID."
UMC currently caring for patients with COVID-19
Dr. Michelson says UMC has 'several' patients who have been diagnosed with COVID-19.
He also acknowledges he anticipates those numbers to increase, which is why the tents were set up outside to increase bed capacity.
"My hope is that these tents will not be used for long-term care of those patients."
Dr. Michelson says UMC intends to limit the tents for screening purposes only.
UMC is encouraging only those who are sick to come to the hospital for screening to determine if they need to be admitted, not if you just believe you may have COVID-19 but are asymptomatic.