New respiratory urgent care facility being built at Cox South Hospital to handle expected flu-COVID influx

Published: Oct. 13, 2020 at 5:40 PM CDT
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With the flu season almost here and COVID-19 numbers still high CoxHealth is preparing for what could be a rough winter by constructing a temporary urgent care center for respiratory patients .

Located in the Cox South Hospital parking lot is a small temporary building that sits in the shadow of the Turner Center (which handles mainly pediatric and women’s care).

Construction workers are still busy working on the inside of the structure and from the outside it may look like nothing more than a storage building but soon it will likely be playing a key role as an urgent care facility for a possible double-whammy health crisis.

“It’s really our way of planning for the winter months," explained Amanda Hedgpeth, Cox’s Vice-President of Hospital Operations. "It will be for patients that have COVID-like symptoms, flu-like symptoms and respiratory illness.”

Unlike the 51-bed COVID-unit constructed inside the hospital which is currently full, this respiratory unit separate from the hospital is not a permanent bed space for patient care but a place to treat those with mild symptoms or determine how severe the cases are.

It will have 16 recliners, portable x-ray, rapid lab tests and a full-staff of physicians and nurses.

“Flu-like and COVID-like symptoms are similar," Hedgpeth said. "We’re trying to step up and make sure we can take care of them. Additionally this (the new urgent care facility) will be all negative pressure so this will allow us to cohort those respiratory patients together.”

Other protocols will also be in place in the building to keep patients who may have COVID from infecting others.

In the months ahead there’s a very strong chance that many people will be getting sick and wondering if what they have is a cold, flu or COVID.

So what should they do?

“Our advice right now is that a patient gets a flu shot proactively," Hedgpeth said. "But we’re really trying to have patients work through their primary care. The primary care from there can help determine what is the best course of action for that patient.”

Cox may build more of the temporary units if the need arises. During a typical flu season the hospital will have 30 to 40 more patients than usual which could be problematic if the COVID patient numbers remain high.

“We hit our high water mark of COVID patients this weekend," Hedgpeth said. "We had over 90 patients in our hospital. We are hopeful that the flu season may not be as bad as prior years because of very diligent hand-washing and much more mask adherence than what we have in normal flu. We are prepared though to be able to have the same number of COVID patients all winter that we have right now with flu layered on top. So it will be a challenging year. But we are pulling out all the stops to make sure we can be there for the community.”

Hedgpeth said the new facility should be up and running in early November.

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