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UnityPoint tests emergency department tent
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UnityPoint tests emergency department tent

From the Coronavirus update Northeast Iowa series
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WATERLOO – UnityPoint-Allen Hospital staff gave its emergency department tent a test run to prepare for an influx of patients during the coronavirus pandemic.

The canvas pavilion was stocked with protective equipment, computers, phones and a heater, and seven exam areas were set up along the side Thursday.

“We have seven set up. We can see more, but we are hoping that we can move the patients through fast enough that we won’t have a lot of people. We want to give people the space, the social distancing,” said JoDee Knox, director of emergency services.

Hospital officials said they will put the emergency room tent into operation when people showing up with respiratory issues reach a crucial point.

“We are waiting for a surge of patients with respiratory signs and symptoms,” Knox said.

Currently, Allen staff is directing patients with fever, cough or shortness of breath to go to the hospital’s designated respiratory clinic at United Medical Park. Those with difficulty breathing or life-threatening conditions are asked to call 911 or report to the emergency department.

When the tent goes into operation, patients will still be asked to report to the main emergency room entrance, and from there a triage nurse will guide them to their next stop based on symptoms. Those with signs of possible COVID-19 will be directed to the tent where doctors will determine if they will be discharged or admitted for treatment.

“The goal is to separate the symptoms, and if we are seeing patients with mild signs and symptoms, we can move them through faster because they are seeing a triage nurse, a practitioner, collecting the specimen and then discharging them,” Knox said.

Knox estimates people will be in the tent for 30 minutes or less.

“If the patient requires more services resources, the patient will be taken into the emergency department or another overflow space,” Knox said.

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