RGH sets up flu treatment tents

Freedom New Mexico: Clarence Plank Emergency Medical Service-Intermediate Rhonda Gorrell of Dora hands a mask to Gay Weese director of marketing with Roosevelt General Hospital. The masks are worn by patients and others while at the new triage set up outside the clinic on Thursday.

By Clarence Plank: Freedom New Mexico

High numbers of patients with flu-like symptoms and concern about the H1N1 virus have prompted Roosevelt General Hospital to set up a special triage unit in the parking lot.

A spokesperson for the Portales hospital said the unit that started functioning Thursday is an attempt to separate possible flu patients from others.

Hospitals in Clovis and Tucumcari haven’t resorted to a separate flu triage unit. But both have enacted emergency flu treatment plans.

Plains Regional Medical Center in Clovis saw a record patient volume on Sunday and Monday, said Elizabeth Brophy, Presbyterian Healthcare Services spokeswoman.

“At this time Presbyterian has implemented their ‘Pandemic Flu Plan’,” Brophy said.

Brophy also said there has been a 10 percent increase in patient volume over normal levels this week at Dan C. Trigg Memorial Hospital in Tucumcari.

Roosevelt General’s Director of Marketing Gay Weese said the hospital is being pro-active in trying to contain the flu.

“We’re attempting to isolate the sick patients from the well patients who come to our clinic,” Weese said. “We are seeing large numbers of patients, which prompted us to set this up.”

Three trailers were donated by the Portales police and fire departments. Patients wait in a tent after registering, then they go the first trailer to have their vital signs checked. The second trailer is used for swab tests and a third trailer is for examinations by doctors.

“We don’t want to cause chaos…but Roosevelt County has been hit hard by the flu,” Weese said. “This is the hospital’s endeavor to help with that.”

Doctor Monica Panwar said H1N1, also called swine flu, it is similar to seasonal flu and if caught soon enough, can be treated with the medication Tamiflu, along with plenty of rest and fluids.

Patients can be diagnosed on the spot, but test results can take from four hours to two weeks, depending on the number of cases that must be analyzed.

The hospital’s Emergency Response Coordinator Tammy Phillips said patients are either given a dose of Tamiflu or given instructions about staying at home and drinking plenty of fluids.

“What they are doing is a quick assessment and if the test comes back positive,” Phillips said, “they will call the patient back and give them a prescription for Tamiflu.”

The clinic didn’t have numbers of how many patients have been treated at the special unit. The average wait time is about 10 to 15 minutes, Phillips said.