Hospitals Prepare for Second H1N1 Wave With Western Shelter GateKeeper Portable Triage/Treatment Facilities

As the first wave of H1N1 flu recedes across the US, hospital Emergency Preparedness Managers are reviewing their Lessons Learned in preparation for what many believe will be an even larger assault on their hospitals.

Providence Health Systems in the Pacific NW is figuratively putting more sandbags in place by expanding their very successful surge capacity plan to their smaller outlying facilities. Providence deployed their GateKeeper alternative care facilities just outside the hospitals’ Emergency Departments (ED) to protect the hospital and staff from exposure while still providing appropriate care to the community.

“The decision to deploy the surge shelters at the hospitals was based on a trend of ED wait time, the ED’s ability to separate Influenza Like Illness (ILI) patients from normal patients, and a high pre-divert status,” says  Al Rhodes, Emergency Preparedness Manager, Providence Health and Services System – Portland Service Area.

“Staffed with our personnel that had already received the H1N1 vaccine, the shelters were stocked and ready should our ED’s become overwhelmed”, Rhodes said.  “This planning strategy was used at four of the Providence facilities in Oregon.”

“The Incident Command opened up the surge shelters when the ED had more than 25 ILI patients in the waiting room in addition to patients with other concerns and injuries.  Within four hours of opening the surge shelter for triage and treatment of ILI patients, leaving the ED to treat all others, the waiting room had been cleared of all patients. The surge shelter was restocked and closed, ready for another surge.”

Training and empowerment meant the ED staff could immediately open the facility whenever the need arose. Overall, the Providence hospitals had their GateKeeper shelters deployed for about five weeks, before striking, cleaning, and returning them to storage in preparation for the next surge requirement. No weather related issues were reported during the deployment.  The decision to strike the shelters was determined as when the influenza levels at the hospital had returned to normal.

This was the second time in 2009 that the GateKeeper Surge Shelters were deployed at this facility.  “The previous deployment was in June to handle a surge of 185 patients in a four hour period displaying respiratory problems.  Patients begin showing at the ED during a late afternoon, freak windstorm blowing large clouds of dust and pollen.  The ED set up the shelters to help with the surge; and in the next four hours processed the 185 patients in the Shelter and ED”, said Rhodes.

The GateKeeper alternative care facilities from Western Shelter Systems were initially purchased with federal grant funds.  The costs of deployment and use are being borne by the hospitals; and are being tracked for reimbursement under Presidential Declaration guidelines.

Western Shelter Systems may be contacted, at 800-971-7201 or emailed at Sales@WesternShelter.com or visit our website at www.WesternShelter.com.

For more information, contact: Peter Powell, Marketing Director Phone: 1-800-971-7201 or 1-541-344-7267 Email: PPowell@WesternShelter.com Website: www.WesternShelter.com