VISALIA, Calif. - Kaweah Delta Medical Center's new tent is not to be confused with its first, which opened last fall.
That one is still in use and serves as an additional waiting room for emergency department patients.
The newest one will be an extension of the ED for certain patients until there is room for them inside.
There are eight beds inside the tent. It is standing by and ready to be used when necessary.
"We'll triage the patients," Kaweah Delta Assistant Chief Nursing Officer Daniel Allain said. "Lower acuity patients will either go to our front lobby intake area or out here in this overflow tent. The rest will stay inside the hospital in the emergency department."
Allain says the need for another tent was fully realized 10 days ago when the ED was overloaded with ambulances, and EMT's waiting with patients until rooms opened.
If that happens again, the new tent will open, allowing ambulances to leave and respond to other calls.
"I would say this has probably been the busiest and the most complicated management of patient flow that we've experienced in my 16 years here," Allain said.
There are a few contributing factors.
Tulare Regional Medical Center remains closed, and on average, Kaweah Delta has seen 500 positive flu cases each week.
In Tulare County, there have been four flu deaths this season, and six severe cases.
Flu activity is widespread across the state. California has seen 97 flu deaths.
Kaweah Delta is in the process of a $32.8 million emergency department expansion, slated to be finished in mid-2019.
"We'll basically double the size of the emergency department," Allain said. "So we'll go from managing in the neighborhood of 280 patients a day that we do today in our current facility, to be able to manage 360, near 400 patients."
In the meantime, Allain just asks that patients be patient while they are waiting to be treated.