'I've never seen so many code blues.' IE doctor describes saving 10 COVID patients in one shift

SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. (KABC) -- Stretchers upon stretchers jam the ER hallways at Providence St. Mary Medical Center in Apple Valley. Outside, you can see a traffic jam of ambulances that delivered those stretchers.

The High Desert hospital hasn't been below capacity for weeks.

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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.

"I believe we have about 57 to 60 patients right now that are ICU level care in the hospital," said Mendy Hickey, a nurse and quality director at the facility. "We have a 20-bed ICU."

Across the country, over 113,000 Americans are hospitalized with COVID on Wednesday, setting a record for the 11th straight day. A new record was also set for deaths - a staggering 3,400 people died.

The nation's current epicenter is California. The state reported another 52,281 new cases of the virus on Thursday, just 1,400 cases less than what California saw the day prior.

Dozens of people have spent days waiting for room at Providence St. Mary Medical, and many of them are desperately ill.

"Just this morning, we ran multiple codes back-to-back. We had three code blues at the same time. One of our doctors went up and ran those codes," described charge nurse Jahmaal Willis, who added that those patients were all experiencing "cardiac arrest, no pulse." As Willis spoke, another code blue was announced over the busy hospital's speaker system.

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The ICU capacity in the 11-county Southern California region has dropped to 0% amid a dramatic surge in coronavirus cases, officials said.

Dr. Raman Dhillon is the ER physician who ran those multiple codes Willis referenced. Dhillion tended to 10 code-blue patients Wednesday morning - and he saved all of them.

"We were successfully able to get them back, but it's critical right now. This is kind of like being in war. I've never seen so many code blues, all in one shift," he said.

Hickey said patient care is beginning to suffer. There are too many patients and not enough nurses. She said this is happening right now at every unit of the hospital. Heroically, Providence St. Mary Medical has not turned away a single patient.

Health officials are concerned that Americans will spend the holidays with their family members outside of their immediate household, mistakenly thinking that the vaccine gives them a green light to do so. Staff at Providence St. Mary Medical warn, that the darkest days are ahead.

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California intensive care unit nurses on the frontline of the COVID-19 battle are sounding the alarm over plans to add more to their patient load.

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