California’s health care system is raging under the COVID-19 pandemic

LOS ANGELES (AP) – California’s health care system is spinning under pressure from the nation’s largest outbreak of coronavirus and can fracture in weeks if people ignore the social distance of the holidays, health officials have warned. needing beds and specialized care has risen to previously unimaginable levels.

Top executives at the state’s largest hospital systems – Kaiser Permanente, Dignity Health and Sutter Health, which together cover 15 million Californians – said on Tuesday that more and more staff were running out of work. normal, now assists COVID-19 patients in halls and conference rooms.

The general manager of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Hospital in Los Angeles, Dr. Elaine Batchlor, said separately that patients there spilled into the gift shop and five tents outside the emergency department.

“We have no room for anyone. We keep patients for days because we can’t transfer them, we can’t receive their beds “, said Dr. Alexis Lenz, emergency doctor at the El Centro Regional Medical Center in Imperial County, in the southeast corner of the state. The facility set up a tent with 50 beds in its parking lot and turned three operating rooms into antivirus care.

California closes 2 million confirmed cases of COVID-19. The state reported nearly 32,700 newly confirmed cases on Tuesday. Another 653 patients were hospitalized – one of the biggest hospitalizations in a day – for a total of close to 18,000.

State data models predicted that hospitalizations could exceed 100,000 in a month if current rates continue.

Even more worrying than the lack of beds is the lack of staff. The supply of available nurses is running out as demand for them has grown 44 percent in the past month, with California, Texas, Florida, New York and Minnesota requesting the most additional staff, according to San Diego-based Aya Healthcare. .

“We are now in a situation where we have increases across the country, so no one has many spare nurses,” said Dr. Janet Coffman, a professor of public policy at the University of California, San Francisco.

California is turning to places like Australia and Taiwan to meet the need for 3,000 temporary health care workers, especially trained nurses in critical care.

Across the country, outbreaks are blamed for a lack of social distance and masked clothing on Thanksgiving Day, and officials fear an even worse rise if people gather for Christmas and New Year.

Fresno County in the Central Agricultural Valley of California is in a desperate state. Dr. Thomas Utecht, chief medical officer for Fresno Community Medical Centers, recounted how the medical staff sees families crying daily, desperate patients and people dying in isolated wards, with loved ones watching from a distance.

Doctors and health officials are urging people to avoid gathering outside their close families.

“If people don’t stay home … we’ll see what it is, it’s hard for me to imagine,” said Dr. Patrick Macmillan, a palliative care specialist in Fresno County. “I think it will break the health care system.”

Similar warnings resounded across the country, from Tennessee, which sees the worst new COVID-19 infection per capita growth, to Mississippi and West Virginia, which exceeded their previous highs for viral deaths reported in one day, Tuesday.

The impact of COVID-19 is not limited to those infected. Lack of beds or nurses means that there are long lines to emergency rooms and other patients, such as those with a heart attack or trauma, and paramedics who have to wait for an emergency nurse to care for a patient may not. be able to do it immediately. answer another 911 call, said Dr. Anneli von Reinhart, an emergency physician at Community Regional Medical Center in downtown Fresno.

The growing distribution of thousands of doses of COVID-19 vaccine to healthcare workers marks the light at the end of the tunnel, but “it also feels like the tunnel is narrowing,” said interim Dr. Rais Vohra. health officer for Fresno County.

“It’s just a race against time to try to get people through this tunnel as safely as possible,” he said. “It’s exactly what you feel you’re working on the front line right now.”


Thompson reported from Sacramento, California. Associated Press reporters from across the United States contributed to the report.