IE hospital overwhelmed by COVID surge forced to treat patients in parking lot tents

COLTON, Calif. (KABC) -- With many intensive care units already at maximum capacity in the Inland Empire, doctors are warning that an increase in cases after Christmas and New Year's could be catastrophic.

At Arrowhead Regional Medical Center, tents are lined up in the parking lot as the hospital deals with a surge of coronavirus patients.

"We have more patients hospitalized than we had in April and July combined," said Dr. Troy Pennington, Arrowhead ER doctor.

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Bay Area nurses are expressing concern over an ICU training plan announced By Governor Gavin Newsom on Monday, which would give nurses a 2-day crash course before sending them to work in intensive care units.

Doctors say the emergency department and ICU have been operating at peak capacity for the past several days.

"It's already not sustainable. We're already running out of emergency room beds, we're running out of ICU beds, we're running out of PPE," said Dr. Sarkis Arabian, ICU medical director at Arrowhead.

Doctors say the shortage of beds is also affecting non-coronavirus emergency calls.

The San Bernardino County fire chief says when patients arrive at the hospital, they're forced to wait on gurneys with firefighters and paramedics by their side.
"Our firefighters and paramedics are remaining on scenes at the home waiting for an ambulance. Sometimes it could be up to an hour or more to get an ambulance to the scene," said Chief Dan Munsey.

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California Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly is holding a press conference with an update on CA's stay-at-home order, COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and which counties are on lockdown. ICU capacity is shrinking in every region, he said.

One doctor, who worked 11 days straight, told Eyewitness News that the pandemic is taking a physical and emotional toll on healthcare workers.

"Every day there's a number of COVID patients that we see, and a number of family members -- we have to tell them your loved one is dying and yet they cannot even see their loved ones in the hospital," Dr. Arabian added.

That doctor is pleading with people to take the virus seriously. He says the way you can help is by being safe: wash your hands, wear a mask, practice physical distancing and get vaccinated once doses are available.

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