Hospitals in California are quickly reaching their breaking point because of COVID-19. Some places, including Sonoma County are now acquiring refrigeration trailers in case the morgues reach their limits.
“We find ourselves today, in terms of the numbers, at a point where we are standing on a beach and watching a tsunami approach,” said President and CEO of the California Hospital Association Carmela Coyle, speaking to reporters on the phone Friday about the biggest challenges hospitals and staff are dealing with right now.
One of those problems is something Mawata Kamara has been dealing with since the start of the pandemic: staffing.
“I go in and there’s one nurse and I’m doing the job of two nurses,” said the registered nurse at San Leandro Hospital.
She’s been working with COVID-19 patients since last year – exhausted from the toll it’s taken.
“We started off with one, two patients and then the ERs got overwhelmed and we’ve been dealing with patients in and out,” said Kamara. “Nurses getting sick, nurses needing to take time off because of their families.”
California’s Hospital Association argues another challenge includes some state day-to-day requirements for doctors and nurses, like filling out paperwork and reports.
That’s taking away a lot of time away from caring for patients.
“If we can take those nurses, those doctors who are already taxed, already stressed, and spend more of their time on providing care and simply postponing some of these requirements, lifting them for now until we’re over this peak, we will be able to maximize the care that can be provided to Californians,” said Coyle.
The other big problem is sending sick people to the right place, so they’re not flooding hospitals if they don’t need to be there.
And, transitioning patients out of hospitals to places like skilled nursing facilities so they don’t stay longer than needed.
“What’s happening is we have ambulances continuing to flow into hospitals, dropping off patients in acute care need and yet we have challenges discharging patients in other parts of the healthcare system when they are no longer in need of that acute care and it is creating a bottleneck within our hospital setting,” said Coyle.
She says hospitals are getting creative to make room for more and more patients, doing things like clearing out gift shops and other areas to put in more beds.
“We did discuss having like a holding area, say for example if the icus are overwhelmed than we have patients backed up in the area, we’ll have like a holding area where we have nurses just kind of watching patients until we have rooms to go to the ICU,” said Kamara.
The California Hospital Association says it expects 15,000 new patients to check into hospitals across California within the next 10 days.