Southern California hospitals short on beds, ventilators, and staff

Posted at 6:09 PM, Dec 18, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-18 21:12:53-05

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) – Hospital beds are filling up quickly with available capacity at zero in Southern California.

ICE Nurse Peter Sidhu is overwhelmed. The Los Angeles County RN says their hospitals are on the brink of their limits.

“We’re having an influx of patients like I’ve never seen before,” said Sidhu. “We’re running out of space. We’re converting any and every room into a patient room.”

He feels more protected after getting the vaccine Thursday but says being short-staffed is a whole other threat. Sidhu also serves as treasurer for the UNAC/UHCP nurses union. He says hospitals have been facing systemic nursing shortages since the early 2000s.

“You’ll be lucky to even get a restroom break. You’re on your feet, you’re running, patients are being intubated,” said Sidhu. “We don’t have enough staff. We didn’t have enough staff to take care of our patients before we had COVID.”

California groups counties into five regions as part of the new stay-at-home order. On Thursday, the Southern California region available ICU capacity hit zero, even though availability for San Diego County is about 16%. That’s in part because other counties contribute to our region’s total. Inyo County only has two ICU beds open as of Dec. 18. Imperial County has no beds left.

“You can open up empty wings, you can convert auditoriums, you can see what some places are doing which is parking structures and tents,” said Sidhu. “But, you can’t replace nurses.”

While there are still some ICU beds open in San Diego, they’re filling up quickly. Scripps hospitals tells ABC 10News they’ve requested additional ventilators and respiratory therapists from the county.

“We’ve constructed temporary negative pressure rooms, added surge tents at our emergency departments, and expanded COVID care to additional hospital floors,” said Scripps spokesperson Stephen Carpowich.

For people who still aren’t being safe, Sidhu as this warning.

“I’m looking at the kinds of patients that we have. They’re younger than I thought they would be. They’re healthier. And now they’re all suffering from COVID,” said Sidhu.

The county says they’re holding off on some vital procedures like organ transplants and cancer surgeries in non-COVID patients to make more room.