Plano hospital sets up tents in the lobby to expand capacity

Texas Health’s Presbyterian Hospital in Plano set up tents in its lobby to deal with a significant surge of COVID-19 patients following the holiday season.

Chief nursing officer Laura Massey said they thought they were peaking last summer when they were averaging 40 COVID-19 hospitalizations a day, but they’re currently seeing a big rise in cases.

"We are completely full right now," she said. "We’re averaging about 100 positive COVID patients a day in our hospital."

The hospital can hold roughly 400 patients.

"We have a large lobby area, and since our visitation has been restricted, we don’t have a lot of visitors who are coming and going in this area, and that’s where they would be able to go and sit," Massey explained.

The hospital on Thursday said the lobby tents are only for non-COVID-19 patients being treated in the emergency department.

They are being used as an overflow area during peak times but are still staying full, according to hospital President Josh Floren.

"We can treat eight patients at a time in the tents which expands the number of patients we can see given the increased demand," Floren said.

The hospital encouraged anyone suffering an emergency to still call 911 or visit the traditional ER.

"ERs have the supplies, staff and expertise to care for people and do it safely during this pandemic. The tents are truly an extension of our emergency department and help us to continue treating patients during the pandemic surge," Floren said.

Texas Health Plano first used the tents last week. There were 15 patients who were treated within four hours.

"And so it’s just right outside the ER, and we have a door where we can go right back into the emergency room department," Massey said.

Massey said it’s a necessary plan during these trying times.

"We’ve been staying at capacity with very limited bed availability," she explained.

They’re not the only hospital expanding capacity.

North Texas has been seeing a consistently high number of new COVID-19 cases since the holidays.

"I’ve talked to some hospitals, some out in rural areas, that have put tents up," said Steven Love, CEO and president of the DFW Hospital Council.

Love said there are all sorts of ways hospitals are improvising.

"I’ve talked to other hospitals that are putting two patients in a room. I’ve talked to hospitals that have expanded on their own campus, maybe in a cafeteria or a conference room," he added.

There were more than 6,600 new cases and 47 deaths in Dallas, Tarrant, Collin and Denton counties on Wednesday. The average number of cases has been above 6,000 for the past six days.

COVID-19 patients are currently taking up about a quarter of all hospital beds in the 19-county North Texas hospital region.

On Wednesday, there were more than 4,000 COVID-19 patients in North Texas hospitals, which is a little lower than on previous days.

The number of available intensive care beds rose slightly to 63.