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Surge in COVID-19 cases causing strains on San Diego County hospitals

Posted at 12:12 PM, Jan 19, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-19 15:12:32-05

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) – Hospitals in San Diego County are having to take care of more sick patients. On Tuesday, two South Bay raised red flags, saying that they were running out of space.

"We had no ICU beds available, no inpatient med surge beds available," President and CEO of Scripps Health Chris Van Gorder said. "When that happens, we can't continue to have ambulances bringing patients when we really don't have anywhere to put them."

And that's why Scripps Mercy Chula Vista made the call to begin operating under internal disaster mode, which means they couldn't accept any more patients. They notified the county about their status, and county health officials helped navigate ambulances to other locations.

Sharp Chula Vista Medical Center also dealt with the same situation Tuesday. At one point, they had 30 of its 48 emergency beds occupied by patients waiting to be admitted to the hospital.

Van Gorder said that operating under this model gives them a chance to open up the hospital's capacity and return to regular operations.

"It gives us a window of time to process these patients and transfer patients to other Scripps hospitals, and we also sent a patient to Tri-City as well," he said.

Van Gorder adds hospitals are also still dealing with staffing shortages on top of the surge of COVID-19 patients they're treating.

"Not only are we busy, our staff is getting sick at the same time, and that's what's complicating things this time," he said. "Our ICUs are getting busier, and unfortunately, we're also seeing COVID deaths are increasing. We had five yesterday, the youngest being 40-years-old."

Scripps said this is the first time they've had to operate under internal disaster during the pandemic. We've reached out to other health systems in the area to find out how they're doing.

"We have been operating under a Code Orange since the beginning of the pandemic to best manage our resources and staffing through multiple surges," Jacqueline Carr, the Executive Director of Communications for UC San Diego Health, said. "While we are experiencing challenges like all health systems, we are carefully managing staffing, bed availability and supply chain through daily assessments and adaptive response. Safety is the absolute priority."