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San Diego County sees hospitalizations rising amid staffing shortages

COVID-19 hospitalizations
Posted at 5:47 PM, Jan 10, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-10 21:28:07-05

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - California is reporting that San Diego County has 988 COVID-19 patients hospitalized. That is 45 more patients than the day prior.

To put it in perspective, there are roughly 180 ICU beds available countywide. Local hospitals said while they are concerned about the lack of beds, staffing shortages, and the daily new admittances while still tending to those in their care.

UC San Diego Health admitted about 15 new patients this weekend alone.

"We are doing our best. But there's no doubt that wait times are longer and our emergency departments are seeing increased volume because people who are symptomatic and might otherwise go to their doctors office or get a test are unable to do that because of staffing and access," Chief Medical Officer with UC San Diego Health, Chris Longhurst, said.

Dr. Longhurst said that within the last seven days, across their hospitals, about 900 staff members have been diagnosed with COVID-19.

Over at Scripps Health, the state and county have helped them acquire additional staff, as they also continue to hire to meet demand.

"The average employee sick call is about one and a half percent per day," President/CEO Chris Van Goder with Scripps Health said. "Last year during the big surge we got up to about 6 percent of our employee. Now it's about 15%."

The other hurdle has been capacity. As of midnight, Scripps Health has 291 COVID patients. 31 patients were admitted Sunday alone. Across all Scripps hospitals, there are currently only 14 inpatient beds and three ICU beds available.

"Unfortunately, most of the hospitals in San Diego County at one time or another in the last week have been on diversion," Van Goder said. "As a result, no one is on diversion, so the ambulances will keep bringing patients to the hospital even if we are full."

Palomar Health says their hospitals see about 100 patients, but only eight patients are on ventilators.

"The patients aren't as sick as we have seen in the past; for example, we might have seen 50, 60, 70% of our inpatients ventilated and in the ICU," Chief Medical Officer of Palomar Health Omar Khawaja said. "What we are seeing now is a much lower percentage of ventilated patients."

While not all hospitalizations are COVID-related, the county is reporting a 19.4% increase in COVID hospitalizations. For some hospitals, that has meant longer wait times and the cancellation of some elective surgeries.

"Try and understand everyone is under the gun. Everyone is stressed," Khawaja said. "The people in our facilities are just taking on so much right now. So a little bit of patience and a little bit of grace and hopefully, we can all make it through this together."

Van Goder said that the predicted peak was Jan. 9. He believes we have not reached peak levels and hopes to do so by this month. He hopes that we could hopefully see numbers similar to what we saw post-holiday surge by early March.