With a tent provided by the Weslaco Fire Department, the South Texas Health System ER facility in Weslaco will now have room for 20 additional beds for patients being treated for COVID-19. 

Wesley Robinson, who is the assistant chief nursing officer for STHS Edinburg and STHS’ free standing emergency departments, said this was part of their pandemic plan in case they had a healthcare surge — several people presenting to the ER simultaneously. 

“What is difficult with COVID is that the patients have to be admitted to the hospital and lots of times they’re in the hospital for several days, now weeks,” Robinson said. “This makes it hard to get new patients into the hospital and that’s why all the hospitals in the Valley are more or less at capacity, so they’re completely full.”

In addition to being its furthest southern location, South Texas Health System ER at Weslaco is a free-standing emergency department. 

“It’s not actually a hospital, it’s just an emergency room, but we’re kind of turning it into a hospital because all of the big hospitals are at capacity,” Robinson explained. 

Due to its massive community, Robinson said the Weslaco location is one of their busiest emergency departments. Previously, STHS planned with the Weslaco Fire Department to increase its bed space if necessary. 

“We believe that we are at that point,” Robinson said. “So we’re adding 20 beds to the Weslaco emergency department.”

What does this mean for a potential patient? They can expect the same care they would receive in an indoor setting, except it will be offered in a tent. 

“It will act just as an extension to the emergency department,” Robinson said. “So, people will get the same care they’d get inside, except it’s going to be offered in a tent and it’s going to look a little more military style.”

This expansion is an example of STHS’ free-standing emergency departments’ goal to increase their capacity in the Rio Grande Valley.

In addition to increasing their bed space, Robinson said they have increased staffing. 

“We have doubled and at some locations tripled our staff at the free-standing emergency departments,” Robinson said. “We do believe that we will be caring for patients for a longer amount of time. Perhaps overnight or for a day or two in the ER setting.”