Military sends help to overwhelmed California hospitals

The military is stepping in to help eight California hospitals that are being overwhelmed by the coronavirus surge.

Posted: Jul 17, 2020 9:14 AM

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Teams of military doctors, nurses and other health care specialists are being deployed to eight California hospitals facing staffing shortages amid a record-breaking surge of coronavirus cases across the state.

The Air Force, at California’s request, assigned 160 people to increase capacity in intensive care units. Some teams arrived this week, including 20 people each to the Adventist Health Lodi Memorial Hospital in San Joaquin County on Wednesday; and Eisenhower Health Hospital in Southern California’s Riverside County on Thursday.

Both hospitals had beds available for extra patients, but they did not have the staff to care for them — highlighting a growing problem across the state as coronavirus hospitalizations reach record levels.

“I think people erroneously think of hospital capacity as all about beds and space,” said Carmela Coyle, president and CEO of the California Hospital Association. “It’s far more than a mattress and a pillow. The most important resource are the people who are taking care of patients.”

On Thursday California reported its largest two-day total of confirmed cases, nearly 20,000, along with 258 deaths in the last 48 hours. There are more than 8,000 people in hospitals who have either tested positive for the coronavirus or are suspected to have it.

Coyle said some models suggest hospitals should prepare for four times as many coronavirus patients as they have now, raising questions about the future of health care staffing “in what may be a new era of virus and pandemic.”

Eisenhower Health Chief Medical Officer Dr. Alan Williamson said the hospital is at 80% bed capacity but was “virtually 100% of our staffing capacity.”

San Joaquin County’s seven hospitals were at 71% capacity on Wednesday, but 121% capacity in their intensive care units. A team of 20 doctors, nurse practitioners, respiratory therapists and nurses arrived from Travis Air Force base, according to Marissa Matta, spokeswoman for the San Joaquin County Office of Emergency Services.

Los Angeles County, where a quarter of the state’s nearly 40 million residents live, on Thursday reported its largest increase in additional cases — 4,592 — while hospitalizations remained above 2,100. County Health Officer Dr. Muntu Davis said coronavirus patients in hospitals “are needing intensive care at higher numbers than we’ve seen before.”

Just south of Los Angeles, in Orange County, cases are rising fast and medical workers are tired, said Dr. Clayton Chau, the interim public health director. He said that the county has capacity in its intensive care units in terms of beds “but we always have concerns of staffing.”

Hospitals are licensed to have a certain number of beds, but they typically don’t have enough people to staff all of them at one time. The facilities have plans to share resources for emergencies, but those plans are designed for local or regional disasters. The coronavirus pandemic has impacted nearly every hospital in the state for more than four months.

Zenei Triunfo-Cortez, president of the California Nurses Association, said hospitals were already facing a staffing shortage before the pandemic. She said the coronavirus has just made it worse.

“You would think that our hospitals would learn from that and would try and beef up the staffing so that if a surge happens again, they will be prepared,” she said. “If they really want to hire nurses, they could.”

John Pasha, an intensive care nurse at Good Samaritan Hospital in San Jose, said he often works shifts without a break because there are no nurses available to fill in for him.

“We’re all tired and we’re all exhausted,” he said. “We don’t have anything left to give.”

California Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 526685

Reported Deaths: 9684
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Los Angeles1958054760
Riverside38487738
Orange38066653
San Bernardino34017477
San Diego30516568
Kern21228151
Fresno15759138
San Joaquin11958180
Alameda11909192
Santa Clara11030192
Sacramento10174148
Tulare9990193
Imperial9513232
Stanislaus9308135
Contra Costa8176131
Ventura787777
San Francisco698961
Santa Barbara652663
San Mateo5744120
Marin518076
Monterey496634
Merced458351
Kings445356
Solano380638
Sonoma311339
Madera211432
Placer195318
San Luis Obispo192616
Yolo161442
Santa Cruz11964
Butte10128
Napa9809
Sutter8406
San Benito6894
El Dorado6681
Lassen6320
Yuba5334
Shasta3979
Colusa3574
Mendocino3419
Glenn3321
Nevada3161
Tehama2461
Humboldt2454
Lake2111
Mono1451
Tuolumne1442
Amador1370
Calaveras1361
Del Norte900
Siskiyou880
Inyo641
Mariposa592
Plumas330
Trinity50
Modoc40
Sierra30
Alpine20
Unassigned00
Chico
Clear
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Oroville
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Paradise
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Chester
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54° wxIcon
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Red Bluff
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73° wxIcon
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Willows
Clear
68° wxIcon
Hi: 91° Lo: 58°
Feels Like: 68°
It was a slightly cooler day for northern California today, but a more significant cooling is arriving tomorrow, along with a slight chance for showers and thunderstorms over the mountains of northwest California.
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