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Sky Lakes tent

Medical tents have been set up in front of Sky Lakes Medical Center to deal with an anticipated surge of patients potentially infected by the novel coronavirus.

Sky Lakes Medical Center in Klamath Falls set up two temporary military-style tents outside its existing facilities Monday to increase capacity for patients and prepare to triage emergencies related to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Tom Hottman, spokesperson for Sky Lakes.

The move is one of many actions the medical center is taking to prepare for what Hottman calls a “surge” in patients that could be coming related to the novel coronavirus. Sky Lakes currently has 11 Intensive Care Unit rooms and the tents would provide bed space for up to 80 patients, according to Hottman.

“These are tents near the emergency department that expand the capacity of the emergency department,” Hottman said on Monday morning. “This is getting ready – We know the surge is going to hit and when it does, we want to be prepared and so this is one way to do that.”

Sky Lakes has set up an incident command system to coordinate actions with its employees as they move forward in regards to addressing COVID-19.

“We’re calling it incident command as if it were a fire or a flood or something like that,” Hottman said. “Those though would have a definite beginning and a projected end. We don’t have that in this case but we’re still using that same structure.”

“There are specific sections responsible for acquiring material, sections responsible for making sure the providers have the latest guidance on treatment, and then it goes up through this very formal structure so that the senior managers, which would be Paul (Stewart) and the vice presidents are all in the same room at the same time, each with their expertise.

“We have liaison personnel so public health knows what we’re doing,” he added.

“It’s very important that we understand each other’s capabilities and capacities.”

Klamath County Public Health and Emergency Management also have an incident command system in place, which is being lead by Jennifer Little, director of Klamath County Public Health.

The Oregon Health Authority and Oregon Emergency Management are currently working together to find ways that counties can get supplies needed for healthcare workers, according to Valeree Lane, public information officer at Klamath County Public Health.

The team for Public Health is also made up of Dr. Wendy Warren in clinical services and Brandon Fowler in emergency management.

Health care supplies needed around the state, including in Klamath County, include healthcare masks, ventilators, and coronavirus tests, amid a COVID-19 pandemic. Hospital gowns and face shields are also in need, according to Hottman.

Klamath County Public Health and Emergency Management are working together to request what’s needed from the state to help keep healthcare workers protected.

“If we had a call from our community from a clinician who wanted to get some more personal protective equipment, they would make their request through Brandon, who would then ask the state,” Lane said. “It’s my understanding that they’ve recently provided sort of a break out of some of the materials that they have to each of the counties and because we’re living in a time where there’s not enough personal protective equipment to be at what would be ideal. We’re all just doing the level best that we can. When it gets down to the number ... of ventilators that will be available, again, that will be taken sort of county by county to see where things need to go and how it can be best utilized through out the entire state.

“We are in a position of trying to ask for our share of things,” Lane added.

“My impression is as far as comparative to other parts of the state, we’re no worse off. We’re in a position of saying, ‘We need resources. How can we access those resources?’ And as they become available, the state is releasing those to us.”

Paul Stewart, chief executive officer of Sky Lakes, is serving as incident commander for the medical center’s team in addressing COVID-19.

Stewart has released videos regarding the medical center’s response to the pandemic, as well as an editorial in favor of ordering that individuals stay home if possible.

“We are taking strong actions so we can further ‘flatten the curve’ of this pandemic and slow the spread of COVID-19,” Stewart said, in a statement on Sky Lakes’ website.

“Our best defense against a disastrous spread of this disease is isolating the chances of exposure. Among other things that means social distancing a physical distance of at least six feet — and avoiding crowded spaces.

“Be calm and be prudent, but please take this situation very seriously,” he added.

“The COVID-19 pandemic is unprecedented but not unexpected, and Sky Lakes will be ready.”

Drive-Thru flu testing

Drive-Thru flu testing is now available but it is highly encouraged for only those who have symptoms of Influenza.

The Drive-Thru testing location will be held at the Community Health Education Center, and all patients will remain in their cars, according to Sky Lakes.

The hours for drive-thru flu testing are as follows: 8 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., Monday through Friday and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday.

{div class=”text_exposed_show”}Patients should first contact their primary care provider and get an order to go get tested for flu. Those without a primary care provider can get tested without the order from a primary care physician.

A provider will be following up with results and next steps, according to Sky Lakes.{/div}

“First of all, call your provider for guidance,” Hottman said.

“If they’re merely curious, please just stay home,” Hottman added. “Tests are at a premium.

“Providers are being very judicious in how they’re allocating a limited resource.”

Aside from being tested for flu, Hottman said those who are symptomatic and without primary care providers can reach out to urgent care facilities. He emphasized to call first, especially in the event of having symptoms of fever, cough, and shortness of breath.

Hottman also encouraged good nutrition, good hydration, good hand hygiene.

“It sounds pretty basic and in some respects, it kind of is,” Hottman said.

{div class=”text_exposed_show”}Protocol changes at Sky Lakes{/div}

Visitors to the main medical center can visit their loved one in end-of-life care, the Family Birth Center, and one person can visit pediatric patients, according to the medical center’s website.

Additionally, Sky Lakes has canceled elective surgeries, which extends to non-emergency surgeries, diagnostics and therapies unless they would adversely affect patients. Only one support person is allowed to accompany an individual to their surgery, and they are required by the hospital to wait elsewhere.

For more information on how Sky Lakes is handling the pandemic, as well as their new protocols in place, go online at https://www.skylakes.org/education-and-resources/coronovirus-resources/.

For more information on COVID-19 and the need to stop the pandemic, go online at https://covidactnow.org/state/OR.