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News >  Pacific NW

Tacoma area hospitals turning to tents to accommodate rush of patients amid COVID surge

UPDATED: Tue., Aug. 31, 2021

By Debbie Cockrell Tacoma News Tribune

Another health system in Tacoma on Monday said it’s having to turn to redeployed staff and tents to accommodate patients in a devastating COVID-19 surge that is putting the state and Pierce County to the test.

Virginia Mason Franciscan Health, which operates St. Joseph Medical Center in Tacoma, St. Anthony Hospital in Gig Harbor, St. Clare Hospital in Lakewood and St. Elizabeth Hospital in Enumclaw, among others, told The News Tribune in response to questions Monday it was facing the strain of the latest wave.

Earlier Monday, MultiCare noted it was using tents at its busiest locations, including Tacoma General and Good Samaritan in Puyallup.

Across the VMFH system, there are currently more than 200 COVID patients and 35 COVID-positive ICU patients.

“Everyone providing patient care is appropriately licensed and trained. However given capacity levels, our nonmedical team members are providing extra support to the patient-care team when they can,” the health system said in a statement.

It added, “Some hospitals are using tents when needed, primarily to separate known COVID-positive patients from other patients while waiting for admission.”

St. Anthony Hospital in Gig Harbor, it noted, was one example.

A representative with Tacoma-based MultiCare health system earlier Monday acknowledged the addition of tents to accommodate its own influx of patients.

“The current wave of COVID-19, combined with increased usage of our emergency departments, has brought a high volume of patients to our hospitals,” Holly Harvey, MultiCare media representative, told The News Tribune via email on Monday.

“To mitigate the spread of the highly contagious Delta variant, we have set up tent spaces outside our busiest hospitals to give patients ample room to stay physically distant while they wait to be seen.”

Amid all the COVID-19 cases, other critical care is still in demand.

“If patients are facing an emergency, do not delay care,” VMFH said in its statement. “Call 911 or proceed immediately to the nearest emergency room. Patients who are not in urgent need of care should contact their primary care provider or visit an urgent care location when possible.”

Dr. David Carlson, chief physician officer for Tacoma-based MultiCare, participated in a Washington State Hospital Association news briefing Monday along with other statewide hospital leaders describing the current strain on hospitals. He noted that Tacoma General and Good Samaritan Hospital in Puyallup had turned to using the tents to keep the emergency room space free “because we need to keep people out of our emergency room waiting rooms because we’re starting to have people that are kind of in a window of treatment that are having to be in those rooms and we need to keep them safe.”

Carlson noted that staff also was being redeployed amid canceled surgeries and other procedures to help in the surge.

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