triage tents

This is a file photo of "Triage tents" that went up as a test just outside the Emergency Department at OhioHealth O'Bleness Hospital on Sunday afternoon. They'll be erected again if a surge of COVID-19 cases occurs locally, a hospital official told The NEWS. They are NOT for testing for the virus.

Two “triage tents” were erected just outside of OhioHealth O’Bleness Hospital’s Emergency Department in Athens Sunday afternoon in case of a surge in local COVID-19 cases. The tents are NOT for coronavirus testing.

Rhonda Dixon, chief nursing officer at OhioHealth O’Bleness, explained that the hospital, in cooperation with the Athens County Emergency Management Agency (EMA) and Athens County EMS, are putting up the three tents “to make preparations in case they’re needed.” She was present as two of the bright yellow tents were being erected. A third tent will be coming in the next few days from Athens County EMA.

“The best-case scenario is that they’re not needed, so if we have an influx or surge of patients presenting to our Emergency Department, there may come a time when we need to move triage from inside the hospital to out here in the parking lot,” explained Dixon. “That’s to keep patients that don’t need to be inside the hospital outside of the hospital. So if I’m sick and I’ve got a fever but am doing OK, you don’t need to be in there; we can treat you on the outside.”

Dixon said the tents aren’t meant to alarm anyone.

“But we do want our community to know that we’re prepared,” she added. “There will be a total of three tents. You come in and (we) triage you in one tent, and say you’re either maybe COVID or maybe not, and (depending on the determination)… you’ll go two separate paths.”

Later, in a prepared release, OhioHealth O’Bleness further explained the purpose and plan for the triage tents, emphasizing that the tents are not meant to be a “walk up site for COVID-19 screening.” 

The release explains, “When a patient comes to the ED for treatment of an injury or other reason, they will first go into the triage tent where they will be quickly screened.Depending on the result, the patient will either be directed to the normal intake desk inside the ED or onto an alternate pathway into the ED for treatment. This will help limit the exposure to other members of the community and care team.”

Asked about the amount of supplies at the hospital, Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) such as masks and gloves, Chief Nursing Officer Dixon outlined how O’Bleness is linked to its parent corporation OhioHealth’s system. “We have multiple calls throughout the day, and we have a whole team up north working on supplies, and they work with our supply chain here, and we’re taking some innovative approaches,” she said. “We’re working with (a company) to come up with a process to actually recycle, re-sterilize our PPE equipment. There’s a shortage everywhere so we’re doing the best we can.”

A NURSE AT OHIOHEALTH O’Bleness emailed a plea to The Athens NEWS on Saturday, asking for community help during the spreading pandemic. 

“The nurses are working the front lines of this COVID-19 pandemic and encourage the community to do their part by staying home and maintaining social distancing but businesses can also do a part by donating mask, gloves and PPE equipment.,” wrote the nurse, who provided her name but asked not to be identified in an article. “We do not have enough. This is very important as who provides for patients if the health-care workers are all sick? I encourage tattoo parlors, dentist and doctor offices as well as construction companies to donate their mask, gloves and PPE equipment.”

The nurse said she was speaking for other nurses at the hospital as well.

Asked about the nurse’s plea, Dixon Sunday said that she heard discussion earlier earlier that day about the hospital accepting donations. “Will we appreciate donations? Yes, absolutely,” she said.

Keely Stockwell, marketing and communication manager at OhioHealth O’Bleness, asked about the PPE items, confirmed Sunday that the hospital “has a shortage of PPE here just as there is worldwide. We’re doing everything we can to keep our staff and patients safe.”

She repeated OhioHealth’s previously released media statement on PPE:

“In an effort to conserve Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), which is in critically short supply worldwide, OhioHealth is implementing new PPE conservation measures as outlined by the CDC, primarily for gloves and face masks and effective immediately. 

“Some of these measures include:

• Using gloves only when clinically necessary such as for health-care worker protection from blood and body fluid. Gloves are not clinically necessary when touching intact patient skin such as when doing vitals, assessments and most other routine tasks.

• Face masks should only be used as required by Standard Precautions, i.e., when splashes of blood or body fluid is anticipated: to maintain a sterile field during appropriate  procedures: when caring for patients showing signs of a fever and with respiratory symptoms, etc.

“We are confident this situation will improve but do not have specific delivery dates for new supplies. 

“As we all know, these are unprecedented times which require unprecedented measures. And while we need to be proactive in assuring access to critical supplies in the weeks ahead, we remain steadfastly committed to the safety and wellbeing of our patients, associates and physicians.”

Anyone who would like to donate supplies should email:

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