Ventura County hospitals adding storage space for bodies as COVID deaths climb

BySenerey DeLosSantos via KABC logo
Tuesday, January 12, 2021
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Hospitals in Ventura County are having to add more storage space for bodies as coronavirus deaths and cases climb across the region.

VENTURA, Calif. (KABC) -- Hospitals In Ventura County are feeling the impact of the post-holiday surge. Nearly 3,300 new cases were reported Monday, and more than 430 people are currently hospitalized, with 83 people in the ICU.

The county also reported another 17 deaths Monday. On Friday, the county announced 24 COVID-19 related deaths.

As the cases and deaths climbs -- there's a grim reality -- some hospitals are adding storage space for bodies.

"I can only imagine that we will not be slowing down anytime soon," said Dr. Raj Bhatia, the director of critical care at St. John's Regional Medical Center.

MORE: COVID surge leaves Ventura County hospitals near capacity

Health experts throughout Ventura County are gearing up for even more COVID cases.

"We are only 11 days out from New Years and 17 days out from Christmas. There is still a chance we are going to see an increased number of patients come into the ERs and would require in-patient hospital care," said Dr. Todd Flosi, the chief medical officer at Ventura County Medical Center.

Ventura County Medical Center doctors say back-up plans are now being implemented in case the morgue runs out of space.

"We've actually added extra storage space just in case we start to have more bodies that we are unable to move off to a funeral home or a mortuary," Flosi said.

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VCMC and Santa Paula hospital share a morgue that fits seven bodies, but with extra storage, it could potentially hold 12 to 36 more. Health care workers say they have not had to use it just yet.

St. John's Regional Medical Center has also not had to rely on extra storage space yet, but bed capacity inside the hospital is running extremely low.

"The ICUs are busy. We are a 20 bed ICU and we have 20 patients in there. We have ICU patients holding in the ER, and the ICU is full, but we keep making beds for them as patients get stable they get transferred to a lower level of care, and then we are able to bring the patients from the ER up to ICU," Bhatia said.

It's a similar situation in all eight Ventura County hospitals. St. John's brought in traveling nurses to help with staffing issues. Meantime, VCMC is utilizing its old hospital space.

"We now have 15 patients housed in that overflow of space, and we are looking to expand that once we have more nursing and other staff available," Flosi said.

Ventura County is also trying to get out more vaccines and are looking for volunteers who can help at vaccination sites.

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