Some County Hospitals Run Out of Morgue Space Implement Mass Casualty Surge Plan

Some County Hospitals Run Out of Morgue Space Implement Mass Casualty Surge Plan

Kitty Alvarado Connect

Hospitals in our county are struggling to keep up with the surge in COVID patients and deaths, that was the sobering message delivered during the Riverside County Board of Supervisors meeting on Tuesday.

“Some of the hospitals are saying they have some of the deceased stacking and it’s just taking a toll on some of the nurses and medical professionals at the hospital,” said Supervisor Karen Spiegel, who represents District 2.  

Bruce Barton, the director of the county’s Emergency Management Department briefed the supervisors about hospital capacity and surge plans, “Part of their surge plan includes a mass fatality of their mass fatality component of their hospital surge plans a couple of the hospitals have hit capacity in the past week,” adding that the sheriff’s / coroner’s department was helping hospitals with the capacity issues.

This comes as the state said they have refrigerated trucks on standby and ordered 5,000 body bags for the surge in deaths they expect in the coming weeks.

Barton also said ambulances are waiting longer to unload patients as hospitals.

Dr. Alan Williamson, Eisenhower Health’s chief medical officer says they’re not at that point, but that is the reality of this virus one he sees everyday in the ICU, “These patients are clearly extremely ill unfortunately we know that we will still see a number of these patients in all likelihood succumb to their disease because the effective treatments are not really there.” 

Riverside County is now at zero percent ICU capacity. While some are more impacted than others, Eisenhower Health, Desert Regional and JFK Memorial have now implemented their surge plans, meaning they have one or two beds available in ICU but they convert other areas as needed to treat critical patients. But the number of patients with COVID symptoms have increased. 

“We have a tremendous amount of patients coming through the emergency department that’s putting a lot of stress on the system … so there is a longer wait right now in the emergency department we are trying to keep that down as much as we possibly can,” says Williamson. 

And because the regional ICU capacity is now at 1.7 percent, if there were to be a multi-casualty incident or they have to take on more patients from the hospital, this would create even more stress. 

“If all of the hospitals in the region are in essence are at capacity there’s no available ICU beds then we really have no option to send that patient somewhere down the road in order to get them care,” says Williamson.

And as we’ve seen throughout this pandemic, our doctors and nurses will just take on more if they have to. 

“If we become overwhelmed really the only move on board at this point is going to be to increase the number of patients that we’re having to care for per provider and that potentially impacts quality at that point,” says Williamson.

Hospital officials in the valley say despite this surge they have room and urge people not to wait until they need critical care to go to the hospital or if they’re having a medical emergency. This will prolong your stay and lower your chances of survival. They say they and their teams stand ready and are able to treat anyone who needs care.



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