PHOENIX (3TV/CBS5) -- It’s a scene becoming all too familiar outside hospitals: tents popping up outside of emergency rooms. The tents are being set up and other measures are being put into place at hospitals to make sure staffers and patients stay safe, and to control the spread of the coronavirus.
At Dignity Health St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center, staff members have set up a medical screening tent outside of the Emergency Department to triage patients with symptoms of infectious disease, such as COVID-19. The tent is not designed as a testing location. It is a standard measure to limit the exposure between individuals with symptoms of contagious illnesses and patients seeking medical treatment for other ailments and injuries. "External emergency triage tents are a form of hospital preparedness and are designed to keep our patients and staff safe," we're told.
At the Phoenix VA, their Disaster Emergency Medical Personnel System (DEMPS) volunteers erected a large medical tent in front of the Emergency Department of the Medical Center. The goal was to test the mechanical components and to ensure readiness, if there is a surge of Veterans who require care. The VA also has pop-up tents at entrances to protect screeners from the elements.
Dr. Frank LoVecchio at Valleywise Medical Center said the biggest misconception is that people can just walk in from the street and get tested for coronavirus. "We have strict criteria of who we can test and they are very sick people, people with pneumonia that are on respirators or maybe people with high fevers,” said LoVecchio.
Outside the Mayo Clinics in Phoenix and Scottsdale, the tents are mobile testing sites, but for Mayo patients only. And Coconino County set up a similar drive up system to test for COVID 19. But neither site is open to the public. You need a written order from a doctor to submit a swab sample.
Valleywise Medical Center is trying out its own version of drive up testing, during which you first call the clinic and get screened over the phone. “If we feel you need to be tested that we can offer that test, if that means bringing a staff member out to you in your vehicle,” said Chief Medical Officer Michael White.
Nearly every health care facility in the Valley is restricting visitations and screening everyone entering their doors. For example, Banner Health announced Wednesday that they will no longer allow visitors at their hospitals due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. The new restrictions will go into effect starting on Thursday at 7 a.m.