HSHS St. Anthony's Hospital set up tent

HSHS St. Anthony’s Memorial Hospital has erected a triage tent across from the emergency department in anticipation of treating COVID-19 patients with respiratory symptoms. It is not yet being used.

EFFINGHAM — HSHS St. Anthony’s Memorial Hospital has erected a triage tent across from its emergency department in anticipation of treating people with respiratory symptoms associated with COVID-19.

St. Anthony’s preparations come as state officials announced three more deaths Thursday.

A confirmed case has not been reported in Effingham County as of Thursday, and the tent is not yet being used, according Chief Medical Officer Ryan Jennings.

“HSHS St. Anthony’s Memorial Hospital is taking precautionary measures to establish additional triage space for those with respiratory symptoms,” Jennings said in an email.

Jennings said that if the need arises, the tent will be used as a drive-thru triage for those with respiratory symptoms. He said the hospital will notify the public when the drive-thru process begins. He anticipates a second tent would be set up later to accommodate a possible overflow of patients.

“At this time, the intent for this tent is to be used for a potential influx of patients needing hospitalization during a possible increase in community illness, not for community testing,” Jennings said.

The tent is owned by HSHS St. Anthony’s Memorial Hospital and was set up by hospital plant services personnel, Jennings said.

The Effingham preparations come as the Illinois Health and Hospital Association on Thursday issued a plea to the leaders of associations for the construction industry, dentists, veterinarians and other groups to help the state’s more than 200 hospitals protect their health care workers. IHA asked the organizations to donate face masks and other protective equipment to their local hospitals.

“Hospitals all over the state are in jeopardy of potentially running out of critically needed protective medical supplies,” said the association’s president and CEO, A.J. Wilhelmi. “With continuing uncertainties about global and U.S. supplies of face masks, we urgently need to find alternative supplies, no matter where they are, so our hospitals can continue to provide life-saving care to current and future COVID-19 patients.

“We anticipate that the number of cases will increase dramatically in the coming days and weeks, exhausting all the Personal Protective Equipment at hospitals, including gowns, gloves, eye shields and, especially, medical masks.”

Jennings also welcomed donations.

“Although we have access to resources across Hospital Sisters Health System (HSHS) as well as resources by being part of the Regional Healthcare Coalition and the Strategic National Stockpile, the level of supply need cannot be predicted,” he said. “With the impact of COVID-19 unknown at this time, St. Anthony’s would welcome any donations from our area business partners. Anyone who might have medical supplies they could donate may contact Ted Albers, St. Anthony’s Supply Chain Manager, at Ted.Albers@hshs.org.”

Jennings said anyone who feels sick should call the office of their primary care doctor. People can also call the COVID-19 hotline at 1-800-889-3931.

“Upon using any of these resources, advice will be given on next steps for you to take,” Jennings said. “Try to avoid going to the emergency department unless it is a truly urgent situation.

“If the primary care provider feels the patient should be seen in the emergency department, the provider is alerting the emergency department to inform them of the patient’s arrival, so that we can have a room readily available rather than exposing other patients. The emergency department staff has the personal protective equipment necessary to keep them safe, as directed from the CDC guidelines.

“Additionally, not everyone who contracts COVID-19 will need the advanced care offered in the emergency department such as requiring oxygen and other specialized treatments,” Jennings said.

Meanwhile, the hospital stopped allowing visitors at noon on Thursday, closing the lobby.

“We understand that this restriction of no visitors is extremely difficult, especially for those who have loved ones in the hospital with severe health issues,” said Jennings. “But along with many other hospitals across the nations, we are taking this step to keep our patients, staff and community as safe as possible.

Hospital officials said if someone wants to check on a loved one they can call the hospital at 217-342-2121. Patient family and support persons should give the nursing staff contact information.

There are four exceptions to the “no visitor” policy.

• Obstetrical patients are allowed one support person. That must be the same person throughout the day.

• Pediatric inpatients under the age of 18 are allowed only one parent or guardian.

• Patients seeking emergency services or those having surgery are allowed one support person who may not be under the age of 18.

• Those reporting for outpatient services should ask their support person to wait in the car until they are alerted that the testing is complete.

The Prairie Heart Institute at HSHS St. Anthony’s Memorial Hospital is open only for outpatients between the hours of 7 a.m. and 5 p.m. The hospital said any Obstetric patients may access the hospital through the emergency entrance.

For more information, visit the HSHS St. Anthony’s Memorial Hospital website at stanthonyshospital.org

Charles Mills can be reached at charles.mills@effinghamdailynews.com or by phone at 217-347-7151 ext. 126.

Charles Mills can be reached at charles.mills@effinghamdailynews.com or by phone at 217-347-7151 ext. 126.


Charles Mills is reporter and videographer for the Effingham Daily News. A 1983 graduate of Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, he worked as senior video editor for a Nashville television station. He is a native of Vandalia.

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