Overflow treatment tents going up outside Health First hospitals

Health First, which owns and operates Cape Canaveral Hospital, Holmes Regional Medical Center, Palm Bay Hospital, and Viera Hospital in Brevard County, is setting up treatment tents outside of its emergency departments at Central Florida hospitals.

The tents are going up at both Holmes Regional Medical Center and Palm Bay Hospital to help with any possible overflow, allowing for more capacity.

The tents will include everything inside a real emergency room.

In a news release, Health First said, "Because of the time and effort required to ensure full functionality, Health First has taken these first steps to ensure we are prepared for any and all scenarios."

On Monday, Health First announced it will be postponing scheduled, non-emergency surgeries and procedures which require a hospital bed. The change in policy goes into effect on Thursday, July 28, and will continue through Sunday, August 15.

"This proactive decision was made in the interest of community safety and to ensure we are prepared and can provide additional space if needed to care for COVID-19 patients in our facilities," said Health First spokesman Lance Skelly in a statement sent to FOX 35 News.

This will also provide an opportunity for clinical staff to provide additional support in critical areas, according to Skelly.

He says the hospital system has seen an increase in COVID cases.

Skelly said there are 155 patients among four Health First hospitals, with the majority of patients unvaccinated.

At Holmes Regional Medical Center there are 550 beds.

"We’re not at [a] capacity situation right now, this is why we’re using things like the tents. Reduce surgery schedules, things like that. As I said, it’s giving up more flexibility, more options."

"I don’t understand why you have a tent outside. It’s no different than being inside," said Registered Nurse Lisa Sembrie, who doesn’t think the tents will keep non-COVID patients safe.

"How is it safer if you don’t know who has COVID walking around amongst you every day in life. You could have somebody with COVID, non-symptomatic, next to a person that has symptoms," she said.

But, others like staying away from confirmed COVID patients.

Brevard resident Jack Mullis said, "That’s a good idea."

Juan Ruiz said, "If it’s safe and has all the features that you can have inside, yeah, I would rather stay outside."

Administrators hope to have the tents set up by Thursday. 

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