For years, many hospitals have stored large, camping-style tents and put them up occasionally for emergency drills or surge events. They are meant to be quick, temporary solutions to help triage and treat overflows of patients, whether from seasonal flu or an emergency such as an earthquake. During the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, many hospitals used these tents as places to assess patients and test for the virus, with the goal of keeping those with potential coronavirus symptoms separate from others.
While these tents are practical places for temporary care, they’re normally not the most comfortable environments. Local donors Craig and Kelly Ramsey are responsible for changing this for patients at Sutter Santa Rosa Regional Hospital with a generous cash gift to erect a more permanent structure.
In January, the acute-care facility nestled in the state’s wine country erected a new 1,600-square-foot tent outside the emergency department. The structure is complete with power, electricity, elevated hardwood floors to keep out rainwater and two HVAC systems for cooling and heating. It replaces a smaller tent erected in March 2020, when COVID-19 virus cases were first reported in Sonoma County, and a second open-air tent that was added last fall. The new tent allows the hospital to treat an additional 40 to 50 patients per day.
“We wanted to find a way to help all our health care providers, who have been doing so much to keep this community safe,” Craig says. “It feels great to know that we can help to make a difference at the hospital.”
Typically, people who arrive at hospitals, whether symptomatic for COVID-19 or not, are first examined in the emergency department. Sutter Santa Rosa patients are now initially assessed by a triage nurse in a comfortable area at the tent’s entrance, which can accommodate 18 additional patients while ensuring physical distancing. In addition to the waiting room, the tent offers eight treatment bays, an area for supplies and a small nurse’s station.
“One of the biggest obstacles we’ve had to address during the pandemic is space and the ability to care for the number of patients we’re now seeing,” says Rick Moonman, R.N., emergency department nurse. “The tents allow us to see many more patients in a controlled, comfortable and healing setting, so our hospital is now better positioned for emergency surges.”