UPMC Children’s Hospital puts up tent to help treat influx of patients

PITTSBURGH — UPMC Children’s Hospital put up a tent outside their Lawrenceville facility to help treat an influx of patients.

The tent isn’t the most reassuring sight for families in Pittsburgh, but the reality is that wait times are high, and the emergency room is swamped with COVID cases on top of their usual caseload.

The hospital needs to make more space to keeping caring for kids.

“I don’t want parents to worry about the tent; I want parents to be reassured,” said Dr. Ray Pitetti, director of emergency medicine at Children’s Hospital and a father of four. “I’ve been at Children’s for 26 years now. The volume of patients coming through our ER now has really never been greater. We’re setting records, if you will, for 24-hour volume.”

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Between COVID-19 cases among kids — the typical back-to-school viruses and sports injuries — the emergency department is slammed, sometimes with hourslong waits.  A slowdown isn’t expected anytime soon.

The 10-bed tent has air conditioning and heat, with all the technology needed for doctors and nurses. Pitetti says it can be used for COVID-19 testing and less severe cases, but it’s equipped to do it all if need be.

With ICU beds for children nearly nonexistent in Allegheny County, according to the state health department dashboard, Children’s Hospital says parents have no need to worry.

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“There are times when our units are full. We’re able to rearrange beds or open new units to continue to care of patients,” Pitetti said.

Children’s Hospital also started a fast-track program this week in its emergency department to help get kids seen by doctors faster.