‘Love in Action’

HARLINGEN — In California, missionaries drove the “mobile medical clinic” to bring health care to migrant farm workers.

At Harlingen Medical Center, the hospital is now using the big medical truck’s examination rooms to screen patients and staff for the coronavirus.

Along the truck’s side, a bold gold-trimmed banner reads, “Love in Action.”

“We’re really happy to loan it out to Harlingen Medical Center so they can help people screen for the virus and for anything else the hospital can use it for during this time,” the Rev. Steve Dorman, pastor of First Baptist Church in Brownsville, said Tuesday.

Now, the medical unit stands near the hospital’s emergency department, where David Salas and a team of nurses are using its two exam rooms to screen patients before they enter the emergency room as part of a plan to prevent the virus from spreading into the hospital.

“It provides an alternative site to triage and examine patients,” said Salas, the hospital’s emergency room director. “It’s all an effort to protect people and the community in general.”

Isolation tent

About two weeks ago, the hospital set up an air-conditioned isolation tent near the emergency room to help screen patients.

Now, the big mobile unit offers a second screening station

“We could use it as an alternate site to see patients,” Salas said. “It’s an effort to increase capacity and visibility.”

So far, the hospital has screened “dozens” of patients and staff for the virus, he said.

“They’re asked a series of questions. ‘Are you having fever?’ We check their temperature,” he said. “They’re asked, ‘Are you having shortness of breathe or cough? Have you traveled outside of the country or to areas concerning for COVID-19, like Florida, New York, New Orleans and California?’”

Meanwhile, the hospital regularly screens its staff.

“Staff is getting screened once a shift,” Salas said. “That’s an effort to protect patients — our vulnerable population.”

Medical surge

The mobile unit also stands ready to handle a “surge” of virus victims.

Salas said the hospital could use the medical truck to examine a rush of patients.

“With this virus, we always have the potential for medical surge,” he said. “We have to be prepared for the community in case we have a large number of people coming in.”