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.

Cases: 3577966

Reported Deaths: 52798
CountyCasesDeaths
Los Angeles119433321569
Riverside2903253829
San Bernardino2868142952
Orange2616083952
San Diego2610013317
Santa Clara1109111797
Kern103622902
Fresno956771451
Sacramento936781488
Alameda808731244
Ventura77849858
San Joaquin670401140
Contra Costa62818681
Stanislaus56323950
Tulare48086766
Monterey42316329
San Mateo39096521
San Francisco34318422
Santa Barbara32087416
Solano30163164
Merced29195405
Sonoma28222298
Imperial26913638
Kings22091220
Placer19882232
San Luis Obispo19724236
Madera15505214
Santa Cruz14700183
Marin13261197
Yolo12854185
Shasta11045179
Butte10981167
El Dorado9168100
Napa905671
Sutter888698
San Benito577261
Yuba577137
Lassen562319
Tehama510452
Nevada397974
Tuolumne396359
Mendocino382143
Amador346941
Humboldt321933
Lake316441
Glenn223223
Colusa213913
Calaveras191149
Siskiyou177914
Inyo131737
Mono12144
Del Norte10075
Plumas6536
Modoc4594
Mariposa3957
Trinity3725
Sierra1000
Alpine820
Unassigned00
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We've had beautiful weather over northern California today and it will continue through Wednesday before changes begin. Those changes will first involve cooler air and stronger wind, with rain and snow chances following.
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