IE hospital converts unused cafeteria into patient room as demand continues to grow

RIVERSIDE, Calif. (KABC) -- A downtown Riverside hospital converted an unused cafeteria into 11 alternative-care patient beds last week. But the need is still growing by the day.

"I think everyone is battle tested and battle ready at this point," said Dr. Steven Kim.

Kim, a Riverside Community Hospital emergency room doctor, has been at war with COVID-19 for nearly a year in an effort to save lives. But the past month has been the hardest for frontline workers with infections on the rise since thanksgiving.

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"The numbers being reported are true. We have seen literally about a 10-time increase in hospitalizations from November to this point. And unfortuntately all the projections are saying hospitalizations are going to keep increasing, potentially even double from this point, which is almost incomprehensible," said Dr. Kim.

Inland Empire's healthcare system has been slammed with patients in need of care. In San Bernardino, more than 1,700 people are hospitalized with 339 in the ICU. Neighboring Riverside County only did slightly better with a little over 1,400 people in the hospital and 296 in the ICU.

"Everybody is struggling with staffing right now. So if we can find staff available, we have the beds that we can create using waiting rooms, conference rooms. We just need the staff to utilize those spaces," said Jackie Van Blaricum with Riverside Community Hospital.

Outside Riverside University Health System in Moreno Valley, ambulance after ambulance arrived delivering patients to the ER. At Arrowhead Regional Medical Center in Colton, FEMA deployed military medical workers to help with the surge of COVID patients.

Currently, Riverside Community Hospital is caring for 235 COVID patients the most its seen since the pandemic.

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Governor Gavin Newsom expects an even bigger post-holiday COVID-19 surge in California, he said in a noon press conference update today. He also gave an update on the regional stay-at-home order and the slow vaccine rollout.

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