‘We are paralyzed right now’: The COVID-19 surge is straining Central Valley hospitals

CBS47 News

FRESNO COUNTY, Calif. (KGPE) – Almost a tipping point is how Dr. Tom Utecht with Community Medical Centers described the conditions they are working with during the Fresno County health presser on Friday.

The surge is affecting their ability to care for even non-COVID-19 patients.

“God help you if you have a car crash today, and I’m not saying that to be petty, it’s really that serious right now,” Fresno County Interim Health Officer Dr. Rais Vohra said. “All of the care that we deserve and expect from our hospitals, whether that’s heart attacks or strokes or just delivering a baby, all of that is being impacted right now.”

Utecht said they’re taking care of patients in places that aren’t meant to care for patients, such as conference rooms.

“Both Clovis and CRMC are running between 120 and 130% capacity,” Utecht said. “We are so strained that our ability to take care of whatever you come to the hospital for, if its COVID or it’s a car accident or a stroke or a heart attack, that is very difficult at this time.”

Although the COVID-19 hospitalization volumes are not as high as the winter surge last year, Utecht said the overall numbers of hospitalized patients are higher than the wintertime – adding that it’s further complicated by the fact that there are fewer staffing resources now than in previous surges.

Fresno County Emergency Medical Services Director Dan Lynch said ICU patients are being transferred to other parts of the state to make room.

“If I had to describe our healthcare system, not just in Fresno, but essentially in our region, our healthcare system is in a state of paralysis. We are paralyzed right now,” Lynch said.

Staffing continues to be a major challenge. In previous surges, the county had Department of Defense medical teams helping in hospitals like Community Regional Medical Center. They do not have that now and Lynch says having that help would make a difference.

Fresno-area Congressman Jim Costa was in Friday’s presser as well.

“Let’s make that effort and that request, both the state and federal level and see what we can do,” Rep. Jim Costa said.

This surge continues as the Central Valley still has low vaccination rates. According to the latest Fresno County data, 51% of the county’s total population is vaccinated with at least one dose. In other parts of the Central Valley, that number is lower.

Fresno County Interim Health Officer Dr. Rais Vohra said projections show that the county hasn’t hit the peak in this surge yet.

“September is going to be extremely challenging for us,” Vohra said. We need everyone in the public to understand this is what we’re dealing with and they need to keep themselves safe. They need to wear their masks, they need to socially isolate when they’re sick and they need to get their vaccines.”

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