Baystate Medical Center constructing COVID-19 triage facility 

  • Workers from Raymond R. Houle Construction in Ludlow install metal studs while building a rapid response triage facility outside the Emergency Department at Baystate Medical Center in Springfield on Monday. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Workers from Raymond R. Houle Construction in Ludlow build a rapid response triage facility outside the Emergency Department at Baystate Medical Center in Springfield on Monday. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Workers from Westover Building Supply in Chicopee unload drywall for the construction of a rapid response triage facility outside the Emergency Department at Baystate Medical Center in Springfield on Monday. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Workers from Raymond R. Houle Construction in Ludlow install metal studs while building a rapid-response triage facility outside the Emergency Department at Baystate Medical Center in Springfield on Monday. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Workers construct a rapid response triage facility outside the Emergency Department at Baystate Medical Center in Springfield on Monday. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Colin Boone, left, of Collins Electric in Chicopee, and Matt Kelleher, of Raymond R. Houle Construction in Ludlow, look at plans while constructing a rapid response triage facility outside the Emergency Department at Baystate Medical Center in Springfield on Monday. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • A worker from Westover Building Supply in Chicopee unloads drywall for the construction of a rapid response triage facility outside the Emergency Department at Baystate Medical Center in Springfield on Monday. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Workers from Raymond R. Houle Construction in Ludlow install metal studs while building a rapid response triage facility outside the Emergency Department at Baystate Medical Center in Springfield on Monday. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

Staff Writer
Published: 3/16/2020 1:34:56 PM

SPRINGFIELD — As the new coronavirus spreads across the region, Baystate Medical Center is constructing a rapid response triage facility to deal with an anticipated surge in patients with the COVID-19 disease.

The new triage area has been under construction since Friday and is located at the usual drop-off location for the pediatric and adult emergency departments. The temporary structure is expected to be complete within 10 days and comes as hospitals make preparations in the hopes that their current facilities are not overwhelmed.

“The purpose of building this area here is to expand our ability to screen patients rapidly,” Niels Rathlev, the chair of the hospital’s Department of Emergency Medicine, said during a press conference Monday.

The sound of construction rumbled in the background as Rathlev explained that the rapid response facility will have between 30 to 40 chairs, spaced six feet apart, where patients will be assessed.

The construction comes as hospitals across the globe strain under the massive influx of patients sick with COVID-19. As health care systems struggle to deal with the overload, temporary facilities are springing up to increase capacity.

In Italy, for example, hospitals have used inflatable infectious disease tents on their grounds. In the Chinese city of Wuhan — the epicenter of the virus — makeshift hospitals were created; one was set up inside a stadium, and the country even built two brand new facilities in just over a week.

Locally, Holyoke Medical Center has designated separate locations for those with suspected COVID-19 cases,  and Cooley Dickinson Hospital is in the process of restructuring its primary care practices to separate people with respiratory illness from others.

Cooley Dickinson Chief Medical Officer Estevan Garcia said the Northampton hospital plans to open an acute respiratory illness ambulatory office to centralize those patients on one site so that other sites can stay open for routine care. 

“Additionally, in expectation of a possible surge of patients at the hospital we will be opening an acute respiratory urgent care on the hospital campus for walk-in patients that will also be able to test for flu and COVID-19 as appropriate,” Garcia said in a statement. “The urgent care will be limited to respiratory patients with a goal of keeping the Emergency Department operational and accessible for seriously ill and injured patients.”

At Baystate Medical Center, Rathlev said that there will be staff specifically dedicated to the COVID-19 triage facility. That work is currently being done inside the building, but it will soon be done in the new facility. Staff will not be moving between the triage facility and the building, he said.

A spokesperson for the hospital did not answer how medical staff for the new facility will be designated to work there.

“We really are preparing for more cases showing up,” Rathlev said.

On Saturday, the hospital announced that it had treated its first confirmed COVID-19 case, with another two dozen possibly infected patients in isolation.

The hospital is also hoping to roll out same-day results from testing for the coronavirus once it gets its own test kits. Spokesman Keith O’Connor said the hospital has its own diagnostic capabilities to process those tests, but that there is no timetable for when the hospital will receive them. 

Cooley Dickinson also plans to open a testing clinic “as soon as the quantity of testing calls for it,” according to spokeswoman Christina Trinchero. 

Testing for the virus remains extremely limited, however, and because of the dearth of tests, health care organizations are applying strict criteria for those who get tested.

Currently, Rathlev said Baystate is quiet. That is sure to change soon, though. Asked whether the new triage facility would be sufficient for the increased need, Rathlev said that is still unclear.

“We don’t know yet,” he said as construction workers framed walls behind him and as bundles of wall sheathing were delivered to the site. “We don’t know what the demand is going to be for this.”

Dusty Christensen can be reached at dchristensen@gazettenet.com.

Please support the Daily Hampshire Gazette’s COVID-19 coverage

Thank you for your support of the Gazette.




Daily Hampshire Gazette Office

115 Conz Street
Northampton, MA 01061
413-584-5000

 

Copyright © 2019 by H.S. Gere & Sons, Inc.
Terms & Conditions - Privacy Policy