LUBBOCK, TX — Both Covenant Health and the University Medical Center have turned to mobile medical tents to handle Lubbock’s surge in coronavirus cases.
Construction began yesterday at Covenant for the first medical tent and today at UMC for the second. Covenant’s tent will start registering patients starting early next week, and a spokesperson for UMC said its tent should finish construction on Saturday and start receiving patients after Thanksgiving.
“If you look at the amount of personnel that we’re going through that are battling [this virus] on a daily basis, it’s a huge strain on our hospital systems” Walter Cathey, CEO of the Lubbock Market for all Covenant Health Systems said.
Hospital officials emphasized that they hope these tents, reminiscent of field hospitals from a war movie or an episode of “M*A*S*H,” serve as a grim wake up call on the severity of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I hope it’s a stark reminder. I hope it’s a strong visual … We’re to that point. [The pandemic] is that serious,” Eric Finley, Communications Director for UMC, said.
The medical tents each have 14 beds available. Covenant Health will be strictly using its tent, or “COVID infusion center,” for coronavirus patients — but only virus patients with mild cases. Those in critical condition will stay in the ICU.
Cathey said 10-20 doctors and nurses will be working in the tent per shift, and their job will be to use anti-viral therapies and new experimental medicines to try to stop the virus before it can land patients in the ER. The primary goal behind erecting the tent, he added, is to reduce the number of incoming COVID-19 patients by 20 percent. There are currently 139 cases of COVID-19 across Covenant Medical Center hospitals.
“If we can intervene early enough in the virus process, then maybe [these COVID-19 patients] don’t have to get admitted inside of our hospitals,” Cathey said.
Finley said the tentative plan for UMC’s tent is not to treat coronavirus parents. Instead, it will assist patients who no longer need hospital care but are unable to go home yet, such as those transitioning to nursing homes or rehab centers. As of Thursday, there were 147 patients who tested positive for COVID-19 at UMC, and the health system had 22 open beds left for coronavirus patients.
Health experts once again urged Lubbock locals to keep their guards up, asking people to continue wearing face masks and social distancing. They said even though you might be feeling fine, you could still put a loved one in the hospital.
“We as a society have to kind of start taking a little bit of personal responsibility about how we interact with each other, how we take care of our family because you don’t want to be that person who’s getting everybody else sick,” Cathey said.