COVID hospitalizations showing no sign of slowing down: ‘The healthcare system is about to break’

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CENTRAL VALLEY, Calif. (KGPE) – COVID-19 hospitalizations and ICU admissions are continuing to rise throughout the Valley, prompting Fresno County to open a 50-bed alternate care site at Community Regional Medical Center (CRMC).

Dan Lynch, Fresno County’s Emergency Medical Services director, said the site had a soft opening on Friday with 12 patients. He said it will be fully activated on Monday.

And there’s a trigger point for opening the alternate care site inside the Fresno Convention Center. Lynch said once the site inside CRMC reaches 40 to 45 patients, they will open the site inside the exhibit hall of the convention center.

“The unfortunate reality is that we kind of expect that we’re gonna end up opening up the convention center. The way the demand is with the hospital right now, it just appears that we’re heading that direction,” Lynch said.

As of Thursday, according to the state, 553 patients with COVID-19 are hospitalized in Fresno County. Additionally, 39 suspected of having it are also hospitalized and 106 are in the ICU — the most in the pandemic for the county when it comes to confirmed COVID-19 ICU patients.

“The number of deaths continue to accelerate. We are in a very grim, challenging time when it comes to the pandemic,” Fresno County Interim Health Officer Dr. Rais Vohra said.

Lynch said on Friday evening, they’d be implementing an assess and refer policy, which means after paramedics are dispatched, they will arrive on scene and determine if the patient is in need of going to the emergency department. If they determine they’re not, the paramedics will refer them to urgent care.

“That’s the situation we’re in right now,” Lynch said.

Lynch said a team with the Department of Defense is expected to be deployed and arrive on Dec. 28 at CRMC to help in the ICU.

The Office of the Governor tweeted Friday that there is only 3% ICU availability remaining statewide.

At Sierra View Medical Center in Porterville, they were at 95% capacity as of Friday afternoon, said Dr. Jeffery Hudson-Covolo, the hospital’s vice president and chief nurse executive.

“Our summer escalation of volume of what we call the first wave was nothing compared to what we are seeing now. We are now at the verge of collapsing the system,” Hudson-Covolo said. “The system really is reliant on our nurses and our staff being resilient. They are at a breaking point.”

Health experts and officials say these next couple of weeks are critical for the healthcare system, urging the community to turn their holiday plans virtual.

“The healthcare system is about to break,” said Dr. Dee Lacy, an infections disease physician at Kaiser Permanente Fresno Medical Center. “We have added additional beds. We are stretching the people that we have as much as we can. We can’t create people. You can’t buy them from Amazon to take care of people. We need to stop the surge now.”

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