Christ Hospital in Jersey City has opened a new system to prescreen walk-in patients before they enter the hospital building through the emergency room.
This system, at 176 Palisade Ave., is set up in temporary structures outside of the hospital. It is to protect hospital staff and existing patients by evaluating and identifying those who are infected with the Coronavirus before they enter the hospital.
The system is intended to ensure proper treatment and to better accommodate the expected increase in patients without inundating the emergency room.
According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), the Coronavirus pandemic has yet to hit its peak in the United States.
As of March 19, positive cases in New Jersey climbed to 742, with 55 in Hudson County. Jersey City currently has 25 confirmed cases of the virus, with 38 cases pending, according to Mayor Steven Fulop.
“Today, we’re one of the first in the state to set up a protocol and procedure at the hospital to keep the health care professionals and patients safe amid this crisis,” said Fulop. “We have been aggressive and will continue to be, and this ER triage tent is the latest step in our efforts to work proactively to help mitigate the spread of this virus as much as possible.”
All emergency room patients will first enter a trailer outside of the hospital to get screened. There, a medical professional standing behind clear plastic flaps will take a patient’s temperature and ask screening questions.
If the staff feels the patient does not have any risk factors for COVID-19 they will go inside a “Green Zone” in the hospital emergency department.
If the patients are sick and could have COVID-19, they will then move to a tent outside the emergency room.
The tent, is outfitted with screens to protect patient privacy, and a chest x-ray to help further screen patients.
In the tent, if they are otherwise healthy, they will be able to get treated and receive prescriptions before they are released from the tent home.
If they need further assistance and treatment the patient will be directed into the “Red Zone” inside the hospital.
“We’re in two fights: the virus and fear,” said Chief Medical Officer Dr. Tucker Woods. “I want to tell people they don’t have to be fearful, you can prevent the spread by washing your hands and avoiding any face touching. Most patients do quite well at home.
“This ER triage tent is multi-purpose – we can screen patients before entering the building, and if they do have COVID-19, we can treat about 75-percent of the positive cases with any necessary prescriptions and chest X-rays, and we can send them home with guidelines to self-quarantine and follow up with their personal care physician.”
Christ Hospital is not a testing facility, so patients should not come to the hospital seeking to get tested
“One of the things that we’ve learned is that we need to protect the front lines,” said Chief Hospital Executive Marie Duffy. “I’m thankful for all our health care workers here at Christ Hospital and across the nation, as we’re battling this virus every day. I want to thank them for their dedication and support as we care for our patients our community’s overall health and safety.”
Woods said no employees at Christ Hospital that have tested positive for the virus.
Preparing for the surge
Woods said the tent would also allow the hospital to conserve protective equipment, noting that while the hospital has adequate supplies, there is a global shortage of masks, swabs, and personal protective equipment.
“If we have a core team in the tent, treating and releasing these patients, we can conserve our masks, our gloves, gowns, etc.,” he said
He also said they have 20 ventilators on hand with access to 20 more and the ICU can accommodate 18 patients currently and the hospital can expand to meet demand. Christ Hospital cancelled all elective surgical procedures, which allows the hospital to turn the PACU into an ICU if need be along with other sites.
“It’s sort of like we’re pioneers exploring Mars for the first time,” Woods said. “It’s a new disease, so this is new for us, but we update the staff regularly as soon as we get a new recommendation from the CDC. But its day-by-day.”
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“There are predictions that many parts of the United States will have far too few hospital beds if the new Coronavirus continues to spread,” said New Jersey Commissioner of Health Judith Persichilli. “That’s why we’re looking with our hospitals to develop surge and capacity planning.”
She said so far the state has identified 487 additional beds that can be brought online in the coming weeks.
She also said that the health department is working with healthcare providers to bring previously closed hospitals up and running which will add even more beds.
One such hospital is Underwood Memorial Hospital in Woodbury,which can accommodate an additional 300 beds and would be a general acute care hospital to absorb the surge.
To meet the need for additional healthcare personnel in the state, the State Nurses Association has put out an alert to all nurses that hold an active or inactive license for a call to action.
New Jersey-certified mobile intensive care paramedics have been authorized to perform functions and duties within their scope of practice to enhance and supplement the existing medical and nursing staff at area hospitals.