Advocate Aurora to establish overflow emergency department tents at all hospitals

Will allow system to triage suspected COVID-19 patients

Aurora St. Luke’s Medical Center in Milwaukee.
Aurora St. Luke’s Medical Center in Milwaukee.

Last updated on April 28th, 2020 at 02:46 pm

Advocate Aurora Health is setting up emergency department overflow tents at all of its hospitals to prepare for a surge in patients with COVID-19 symptoms.

The triage tents will allow the hospitals to keep suspected COVID-19 patients separated from the main hospital while being screened, while also helping conserve personal protective equipment for health care workers, the health system said.

A diagram of the patient bays in Advocate Aurora’s overflow tents.

“The tents allow for greater protection of our team members and patients by separating suspected COVID patients and not bringing them into the main hospital unless they require further treatment after their screening,” Advocate Aurora said in a statement. “The tents also help us efficiently conserve personal protective equipment as they are designed in a way so that staffing is kept to a minimum.”

The tests will be for patients who arrive at the emergency department with mild COVID-19 symptoms. They will not be testing sites.

Documents filed with the city show the health system is preparing to erect a 60-by-30-foot tent in the Aurora St. Luke’s Medical Center’s parking lot in Milwaukee. The tent would contain 11 patient bays, each containing an exam table or chair, mobile nurse workstation, mobile physician workstation, vitals cart and respite chairs.

Citing the unknown duration of the pandemic, Aurora St. Luke’s is seeking a variance to city code, which permits tents to be erected for no more than 15 days.

Public health officials have raised concerns about the availability of personal protective equipment, ICU beds and ventilators at Wisconsin hospitals with the anticipated surge in patients.  

Dr. John Raymond, president and chief executive officer of the Medical College of Wisconsin, on Monday said models indicate there will be a saturation of health care beds in the state during the third week of April.

Advocate Aurora is among the major health systems that have put out a call for PPE donations. Beginning Tuesday, the health system has begun requiring all hospital employees to wear a fabric mask on its acute care campuses.

“This is a precautionary measure intended to better protect each other and our patients while conserving our personal protective equipment (PPE) supply for medical use,” Advocate Aurora said. “It’s important to note that universal masking is not designed to protect team members from exposure to others who are sick; but instead is intended to protect others from possible exposure from the person wearing the mask.”

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Lauren Anderson
Lauren Anderson covers health care, nonprofits, education and insurance for BizTimes. Lauren previously reported on education for the Waukesha Freeman. She graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she studied journalism, history and African studies. In her free time, Lauren enjoys spending time with family and friends and seeing live music wherever she can.