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Speaker: If you need a moderator or speaker for an upcoming event, Dr. David E. Marcinko; MBA – Publisher-in-Chief of the Executive-Post – is available for seminar or speaking engagements. Contact: MarcinkoAdvisors@msn.com  or Bio: www.stpub.com/pubs/authors/MARCINKO.htm

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Reflections on a Tent Hospital

Thoughts on Pop-Up Healthcare Facilities

By Dr. David Edward Marcinko; FACFAS, MBA, CMP™

Publisher-in-Chiefdr-david-marcinko13

According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, February 10, 2009, it took Mark Ross about 22 minutes to inflate the hospital for the first time. Yesterday, he did it in 14 minutes. In the event of a large-scale emergency – a direct hit by a hurricane for example, or a plane in the Delaware River [Think Hudson River, NY]  – Ross and other volunteers can have the mobile hospital running anywhere in Southeastern Pennsylvania within two to four hours of the first alert.

The Valley Forge Experiment

The day before, on February 9, in Valley Forge PA, dozens of current and potential volunteers got to see three tan and white tents – and reams of equipment – for the first time. The $1 million cost was paid by state and federal governments. With a portable generator, 50 cots, 130 ventilators, 26 wireless cardiac monitors and 27 patient carts loaded with tongue depressors, eye shields and IV sets, the rapid-response team is intended to fill the 72- hour gap before federal emergency help arrives after a disaster.

Back-in-the-Day

Now, despite this Valley Forge innovation, mobile, semi-permanent and pop-up healthcare facilities are not a new machination in civilian life or non-warfare times. In fact, please allow me to tell you of my canvass tent-hospital experience, back in the late seventies.

My Tent Hospital

At the time, I was completing my training program as a senior attending resident [SAR], and surgical fellow. The “hospital” where I moonlighted was located in a sleepy town about 40 miles North of Atlanta, Ga. Driving there in my lime-green, oil-burning 1969 Chevrolet Impala with balding tires [retreads] was always novel experience.

As I recall history, the tent-hospital began as a private medical clinic in a three bedroom converted brick ranch-house that was the style in the late 1950s’-60s. It was the private practice of a solo practitioner-internist for his rural patients who lived on farms too far from the big city – or for patient’s who mistrusted the medical establishment. There were many. It grew quickly, from the days before Medicare/Medicaid reimbursements, to modernity.

Think Cirque du Soleil

Expanding to a larger facility, with sparse economic resources, necessitated innovative thinking at the time. The hospital itself was a very large circular tent [bulls-eye configuration], built on semi-permanent concrete foundation with trampoline-like floor. The tent was shaped like a disc or sphere. In the center was an operating room for the visiting general surgeon. The next concentric layer was comprised of four rooms. The admissions, records department and triage room; a dirty-room with toilet; a clean room with bed and shower; and a kitchen with doctor/nurse station and lounge. The next third outer concentric layer consisted of about twelve patient “rooms”. The patients entered each room from the inner second layer, while the doctors and nurses opened a door-slot on the outer third layer for the introduction of food, information, gowns and equipment, visitor chit-chat and medications, etc. Each room was muck like a dungeon, jail or cell [Recall the Seinfeld episode where Kramer housed visiting Asians in his cabinet drawer or shelf]. The docs and nurses continually circulated the third outer “floor” layer, ministering to their respective patients. By the way; no staff nurse ever complained of tired feet, leg soreness or calf cramps because of the springy trampoline-like floor.

Not a TV MASH Unit

tent-man

This “hospital” was not like a military MASH unit, at all. It was definitely civilian in nature, purpose and construct:

Think: Army CASH unit; not MASH unit.

CASH = Combat Army Surgical Hospital [semi-permanent].

MASH = Mobile Army Surgical Hospital [ambulatory]  

My Experiences

During my summer working there, I managed a small part-time, two-room medical clinic with a singular nurse. We treated all sort of minor injuries and ills, cuts, scrapes; boils and blisters; aches and sprains; dog bites, bee stings and allergies, and simple closed extremity fractures, infections, etc. I even operated on a half-dozen patients under local anesthesia with conscious sedation. For the holidays, I received presents from several nurses and patients who remembered me from the previous summer.

New Facility

My “tent hospital” was in operation for almost two decades before the founding physician retired. The site was replaced by a publically funded, much larger and permanent “modern” facility, as the surrounding suburbs grew. The new Woodstock Hospital is now a short-term facility, with 21 beds, but is not yet rated by any hospital service agency because of statistically low volume requirements. It is a District Authority owned hospital facility.

Source: Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services for the years 2005-2007. 

Assessment

Now, here’s the thing. My tent-hospitals’ claim-to-fame was that it, at the time of closure, was the only hospital in the State of Georgia to have never had a hospital acquired [nosocomial] or post-operative infection? To my knowledge, the feat has not been duplicated in this state. Of course, the new facility was not so fortunate. Increased medical acuity, treatment services and a different-mobile patient population was cited as the likely culprit.

Conclusion

And so, your thoughts and comments on this Medical Executive-Post are appreciated. Quality initiatives are good. And, health 2.0 information technology is the future of medicine. But, sometimes, prologue is past.

Speaker: If you need a moderator or speaker for an upcoming event, Dr. David E. Marcinko; MBA – Publisher-in-Chief of the Executive-Post – is available for seminar or speaking engagements. Contact: MarcinkoAdvisors@msn.com  or Bio: www.stpub.com/pubs/authors/MARCINKO.htm

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Healthcare Organizations: www.HealthcareFinancials.com

Health Administration Terms: www.HealthDictionarySeries.com

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