RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — UNC Rex hospital leaders told CBS 17 they are almost at capacity and are working with a 90 percent filled building.
Officials said they had to think creatively about how to continue to treat patients, as emergency room and bed space dwindled.
On Monday, two “surge tents” were put up outside of the emergency department. Another tent is on its way.
While the tents can only hold about 10 socially distanced people at a time, officials told CBS 17 every little bit helps.
“There are waits at different times of day [but] it could be up to six hours or up to 12 hours,” said Kim Boyer, the director of emergency services for UNC Rex.
It’s a time frame no one wants to see at the emergency room. But right now, it can’t be helped, officials said.
“The numbers [of patients] with COVID have increased dramatically. The hospital is incredibly busy, and staff are working very hard to take care of all the patients — both COVID and non-COVID,” said Jeffrey Hammerstein, the emergency preparedness coordinator for UNC Rex.
“It’s kind of like a double whammy,” added Boyer.
There are 45 COVID patients at UNC Rex. Of those, 20 are in the ICU.
Hospital leaders are concerned it’s going to get worse.
“We’re treating people and seeing people in the hallways,” explained Boyer. “We’re using every square inch to be able to take care of these volumes.”
Now, that space is extending outside hospital walls.
The surge tents will be used initially as an extra waiting area, freeing up the emergency room to serve and treat more patients.
But because they’re also air-conditioned and heated, the tents can be used as a treatment area.
“We’re hoping we don’t have to use these tents, but if we do need them, then we’re here for the community and we’re able to meet that demand,” said Boyer.
This is the second time UNC Rex has used a tent during the pandemic: back in March 2020, they had a triage tent outside of the emergency department.
Hospital leaders plan to staff the tents with traveling nurses and employees from the new Holly Springs campus, which has yet to open. They are also actively hiring.