Tents return outside Pikeville Medical Center due to COVID-19 surge

pikevile tent.JPG
Posted at 6:13 PM, Aug 25, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-25 18:25:14-04

PIKEVILLE, Ky. (LEX 18) — For the third time during the pandemic, Pikeville Medical Center is taking measures to control the demand at the emergency room.

They have opened tents outside the E.R. to try and limit as much exposure of the virus to those inside the hospital. As of Wednesday morning, there were more than 70 COVID-19 patients in the hospital.

"It's going to take getting rid of the social media misfacts, take the politics out of it, and come together as a community to help defeat this and protect those that we care for and love," said Donovan Blackburn, CEO of Pikeville Medical Center.

Hospital leaders stress the difference in patients -- those who are vaccinated and unvaccinated. Looking at the data, the vast majority of those in the hospital with COVID-19 are those who are not vaccinated.

"People that are coming in that are testing positive that have been vaccinated aren't getting nearly as sick," said Dale Morton, the Director of Emergency & Transport Services. "We're able to send them home with the vitamin regimen and a couple of other things and they're working their way through it."

Tents set up outside the E.R. can hold up to 16 patients at once.

"Anybody presenting COVID symptoms we triage in one area and anybody not expressing COVID symptoms we triage in another, trying to protect our patients as much as possible," Morton says.

That is to hopefully keep the virus away from other people who are in the E.R. for other reasons.

"We have met capacity in the emergency room several times lately," said Morton. "There are a lot of sick people. We need people to get vaccinated, wearing a mask, doing the social distancing."

This is the third time they have had to open the tent. The last time was the end of August of 2020. The first time was when the pandemic first started in March of 2020. The demand has been so strenuous on the hospital staff that they are expecting the National Guard to help out next month.

"It has put us in positions that it's taking longer to move patients through the ER in times that we've never seen at Pikeville Medical Center," Morton said.

Leaders also point out the increase is not specific to Pike County. They have had hospitals from Macon, Ga. call to see if they can transfer patients. Macon is more than 450 miles from Pikeville.