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MVHS opens respiratory triage tents outside St. Elizabeth, St. Luke’s campuses

By Eric Reinhardt (ereinhardt@cnybj.com)

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Mohawk Valley Health System (MVHS) has placed a respiratory triage tent outside its St. Elizabeth Medical Center campus. MVHS is using the tent to make sure a patient seeking treatment from the emergency department isn’t demonstrating symptoms of COVID-19 before going to the emergency room. MVHS says it doesn’t want people scared of coming to the emergency room over fears of COVID-19. (Photo provided by Mohawk Valley Health System)

UTICA, N.Y. — The Mohawk Valley Health System (MVHS) announced it has opened two respiratory triage tents outside the emergency departments (ED) at its two hospital campuses.

The tents are located at St. Elizabeth Medical Center at 2209 Genesee St. in Utica and at St. Luke’s at 1656 Champlin Ave. in Utica.

The triage tents are for patients with respiratory symptoms (cough, shortness of breath, congestion, etc.) and will help identify those who have symptoms of coronavirus/COVID-19 before they enter the facility and potentially come into contact with staff and other patients.

The process in the tents will “significantly minimize” a patient’s exposure to other patients and staff, MVHS contends.

“As cases of COVID-19 continue to grow in our area, it’s important that the EDs are prepared for an influx of patients — both those who may be positive for COVID-19 and those who need other types of emergency care ([such as] heart attacks, strokes, etc.),” Dr. Afsar Khan, medical director at MVHS, said in a statement.

Oneida County had 55 confirmed cases of the coronavirus as of noon on Wednesday, up from 46 the day before, the Office of Oneida County Executive Antony Picente, Jr. announced. Eight patients were hospitalized with COVID-19 in Oneida County at that time.

Khan said the purpose of the tents is to “triage patients with respiratory issues before they enter the facility so it can be determined if they may have COVID-19 or if they are suffering from a different respiratory illness. Knowing the status of these patients before they enter the facilities will help minimize exposure to other patients and staff.”

Once patients have been triaged, they may be directed to the emergency department for further treatment based on the initial assessment. MVHS emphasizes that the tents are not for coronavirus/COVID-19 testing and the appointment will be considered a visit to the emergency department.

Patients needing emergency services not related to respiratory issues should continue to use the main ED entrances.

“It is our hope that these tents will not only prove useful for those coming in for respiratory issues, but that they will alleviate some of the fears of those who may be hesitant to use our ED services for fear of exposure to COVID-19,” Kahn said. “We don’t want someone who has signs and symptoms of a stroke, for example, to stay home because they are concerned about being exposed to COVID-19. Time is critical with many conditions that are still impacting members of our community and it’s vital to seek treatment as quickly as possible. It is our mission to keep everyone safe throughout this pandemic.”

Charles A. Gaetano Construction Corp. of Utica donated the tents, metal storage boxes, propane building heaters with tanks, and several concrete safety barriers used for the triage tents. Clinton Tractor & Implement Co. of Clinton loaned MVHS two carts to transport patients from the tents to the emergency department if needed.