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Dignity Health medical centers prepare triage tents for potential patient influx
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Dignity Health medical centers prepare triage tents for potential patient influx

Dignity Health Central Coast has set up triage tents outside local emergency departments and urgent care centers in preparation for potential surges of patients seeking care for coronavirus symptoms.

The tents are located outside Dignity Health Urgent Care centers in Atascadero, Santa Maria, Orcutt, Lompoc and Pismo Beach, as well as outside Arroyo Grande Community Hospital, French Hospital Medical Center and Marian Regional Medical Center.

The triage tents are not currently in operation but will be activated when there is need for expanded care outside of emergency departments or an influx of patients, said Dignity Health Central Coast spokeswoman Megan Maloney.

Triage tents will not serve as walk-up specimen collection centers or testing centers for the public. However, specimens may be collected from some patients who arrive at the tents exhibiting severe symptoms of coronavirus, Maloney said.

Individuals experiencing respiratory symptoms should contact their primary care doctor first and use the triage tents as a last resort for care once they open, according to Scott Robertson, chief medical officer for Dignity Health Central Coast.

“If their physician is unavailable, our urgent care centers are here for the community. If an individual is in distress or having a health emergency, they should visit the emergency department immediately for care,” Robertson said. 

At tents located outside of emergency departments, Maloney said staff will use a two-tent system to separate potential COVID-19 cases from those needing other emergency care. 

"The first smaller tent will address the concerns of individuals coming into the (emergency department). If they need true emergency services, they would be taken into the (emergency department). If a person believes he/she is symptomatic, the person would then be taken to the larger tent in order that we can collect specimens for COVID-19 testing," Maloney said. 

Due to the limited numbers of tests in the county, County Public Health Officer Dr. Henning Ansorg said he does not foresee testing available to everyone anytime soon. 

"We have to make do with the resources we have and we have to unfortunately prioritize only the most vulnerable and sickest people," Ansorg said.