Hospitals in LA County implementing surge plans as ICU beds become scarce commodity

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- In Los Angeles County, hospitals are putting their surge plans into action as beds in intensive care units become a scarce commodity and the surge of COVID-19 patients reaches the highest numbers since the start of the pandemic.

"We're already, in the county, at 90% capacity for ICUs. We will absolutely exceed that capacity," said Dr. James Keany with the emergency department at Providence Mission Hospital.

In March the National Guard set up hundreds of beds at the L.A. Convention Center, preparing it for use as a field hospital. However, it was never needed, and now, hospital officials are trying to find other ways to increase capacity.

"Can we put up tents, and you've seen that all across the region already, the sort of making use of existing facilities where people already are coming, where there's an infrastructure that supports that facility," said L.A. County Public Health Director Dr. Barbara Ferrer.

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On Friday, the county officials said while there is still some capacity, it is implementing a surge plan.

"We are equipped to continue caring for both COVID and non-COVID patients. We have redeployed staff from outpatient clinics to help at the hospitals and we have requested additional staff from the state."

Some medical centers are hoping to ease the burden by launching Medicare's Hospital at Home program, which allows health care workers to treat patients at home.

"They go from the ER back home and then we send all the resources to their house - medication, oxygen, nurses, nursing assistants, nurse practitioners. We send those resources to the house to take care of those patients."

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As facilities across the region try to figure out ways to deal with the surge in cases and hospitalizations, Ferrer once again issued a warning about the danger of spreading the virus during holiday gatherings.

"We cannot undo what's already been done and collectively we're all going to pay a very high price for the actions we were taking in the past," she said.

Ferrer said if current trends continue, the number of coronavirus patients hospitalized and in intensive care will double in two weeks. According to the county Department of Public Health website, the county as of Thursday had 606 non-specialized adult hospital beds available, and 71 adult ICU beds.

City News Service contributed to this report.
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