Renown Sets Up Alternate Care Site To Evaluate Respiratory Illness

Mar 13, 2020

Governor Steve Sisolak declared a state or emergency to deal with the spread of coronavirus in Nevada on Thursday night. Health officials have identified 11 cases of COVID-19 in the state.

As the coronavirus pandemic continues to spread around the country, Renown Health in downtown Reno recently set up a deployable medical facility. Providers can screen and evaluate patients with symptoms of respiratory illness in a tented area that serves as an extension of the emergency room. 

Right now, Renown doesn’t have any patients with COVID-19, but they’re prepping for the possibility.

Inside the tented medical facility, partitions separate the space to allow for as many as 12 patients to be evaluated.
Credit Anh Gray / KUNR

Right outside Renown’s ER on Mill Street, there’s now a pop-up medical facility in the parking lot. A ventilation system circulates air in-and-out of the tent and partitions separate the space to allow for as many as 12 patients to be evaluated.

City of Reno Mayor Hillary Schieve stopped by for a tour. The hospital emergency room manager Rochelle Binnell was on hand to show her around.

“So this is our alternative treatment care area,” Binnell said. “We are going to be seeing patients. We'll be screening at the door for all of our patients that come in for any kind of respiratory illness. For our patients that we're not as concerned about COVID-19, we want to be able to treat those patients immediately. So we're going to bring them to this area here.”

Medical providers will be on site to administer care. “We're going to have two nurses in here. We'll have a tech,” Binnell explained. “They'll be registered in here and they'll be seen immediately. An ER physician will also be in this area so that we can do any kind of lab testing, any kind of swabs that we need to do. Radiology will be able to come out and do portable x-rays.”

Binnell said once patients are evaluated, providers will decide what type of care is needed.

Medical providers will staff the deployable medical facility, which is equipped to screen and evaluate patients with symptoms of respiratory illness. Providers will determine what type of care and treatment is needed for each individual patient.
Credit Anh Gray / KUNR

“If we have a patient that is in severe respiratory distress, obviously we would take care of them in one of our ER rooms,” Binnell said, “but anything else, we can handle from this area. We can do our treatment in this area.”

Mayor Hillary Schieve said that as communities across the country are bracing for the impact of coronavirus, local and state agencies can respond more quickly than the federal government.

“We're at ground zero, and that's really what we understand, right? That being quick, not so much like Washington... it's a different animal,” Schieve said. “We're here for our citizens. We're the ones that are always monitoring situations constantly.”

Renown Health has been coordinating with various local agencies, including Washoe County Emergency Management and the Washoe County Health District, to prep for the coronavirus.

Dr. Paul Sierzenski is the chief medical officer for acute care services at Renown. He said emergency preparation takes place year-round.

“Renown Health, like systems around the country, drill for this practice for this and prepare for situations where you see increasing influxes of patients, regardless of the clinical entity,” Sierzenski said, “whether it's trauma, whether it's cardiac, what have you, whether it's disaster, like a natural disaster.”

Sierzenski said that there has been a recent increase in patients coming to the hospital with symptoms of respiratory illness since it’s still cold and flu season.

“Patients who are presenting will be evaluated and screened as to whether this is the right location of care for them. Individuals who are critically ill, who have respiratory illness, pneumonia, who may be on other supportive oxygen to a level like positive pressure ventilation will need to be seen in the primary emergency department,” Sierzenski explained.

Amy McCombs is the director of infection prevention and emergency preparedness at Renown.
Credit Anh Gray / KUNR

Amy McCombs is the director of infection prevention and emergency preparedness at Renown.

She said suspected test samples of coronavirus will be sent to the Nevada State Public Health Laboratory, located at the University of Nevada Reno School of Medicine.

Patients with COVID-19 will not be treated in this deployable medical facility. Medical providers will isolate those individuals to stem the spread of infection.

To prevent the spread of coronavirus, health workers at Renown will be donning protective gear.

“They will be wearing additional personal protective equipment. So they'll be either wearing some type of respirator, whether that's a reusable respirator, a purified respirator or a continuous air-purified respirator, as well as goggles, gown and gloves.”

The site is not open to the general public. McCombs recommends that individuals exhibiting cold and flu-like symptoms call a medical provider for guidance.

Recently, Renown announced a new policy to restrict visitors. The hospital will make some exceptions for extenuating circumstances, such as severe trauma. No visitors under the age of 12 will be permitted.

For continued updates on the coronavirus in Nevada, see our coronavirus webpage.