Drills And Tents: Local Hospitals Prep For A Surge In COVID-19 Patients

View of the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. (Gabriel Bouys/AFP via Getty Images)

As COVID-19 cases continue to rise, local hospitals are bracing for a surge in patients, while some healthcare workers say preparation efforts aren't enough.

AT CEDARS AND USC FACILITIES

In an effort to prepare for overflow, Cedars-Sinai announced this afternoon that it'll be putting up tents in a parking garage at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and at a parking lot at Cedars-Sinai Marina del Rey Hospital.

At LAC+USC Medical Center, hospital officials have been running drills for an emergency triage process in front of the facility.

"We are monitoring our hospital capacity actively, and are prepared to take steps to open up capacity if that becomes necessary," said Connie Castro, a spokesperson for LAC+USC in an emailed statement to KPCC/LAist.

She said that could, for example, mean canceling elective surgeries.

At Keck Hospital of USC, preparations are underway to install temporary "triage" tents. A Keck spokesperson told us via email that, "All Keck Medicine of USC patients are being screened for COVID-19 and hospital protocol is followed to provide appropriate care, some of which may be through phone and telemedicine appointments."

"Basically, it's going to have the [safety measures] like you do in a hospital so that our healthcare workers can be safe," Dr. Neha Nanda, medical director of infection prevention at Keck Medicine of USC.

Elizabeth Hawkins, an ER nurse at Kaiser Riverside and member of the United Nurses Associations of California, told KPCC/LAist the hospital has hosted training refreshers on how to use protective equipment, though she acknowledges the shortage of N-95 masks across the country are forcing workers to be judicious with their supplies.

"I know that we're using those only in cases where we absolutely have to," Hawkins said.

'WE'RE NOT FEELING SAFE'

Other frontline health workers told us there hasn't been enough done to ensure their safety.

"Right now, there's a lack of supplies — specifically protective equipment, PPE's — so we're not feeling too safe because we still have to go home to our families," said a healthcare worker at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

The worker said that in the past, the protective equipment was easily accessible, but now they're having to ask for supplies. The worker said training should have been ramped up months ago.

"We should be the most informed and educated, since we're in the frontlines with these patients," he said.

Cedars-Sinai has not responded to our request for comment about the worker's complaint.

Katrina Stevenson, an ultrasound technician at Centinela Hospital Medical Center in Inglewood worries about capacity. She told us the staff shortage predates the COVID-19 outbreak.

"There's always been a high turnover," she said.

In an email, CHMCI interim COO Mohammad Naser wrote: "Appropriate resources of staff, clinical partners, space and supplies have been allocated to meet the needs of our patients, and adjustments will be made as necessary as we continue to monitor recommended CDC protocols."

PRIORITIZING HOSPITAL BEDS

Officials and medical providers are urging patients to stay at home even when they're sick, unless they believe they need care in a hospital setting.

The California Hospital Association is working with the state to identify locations where patients who've been diagnosed with COVID-19 and don't need hospitalization can be discharged and subsequently monitored.

"We need to make sure that we preserve the resources of our healthcare delivery system for people who truly need hospital-level care," said Jan Emerson-Shea, a spokesperson for the association. "What we're trying to do here is look down the road over the next several weeks and perhaps months to come."

GO DEEPER:

Your No-Panic Guide To Coronavirus In L.A.

Have A Question? We Will Answer It

Here's A Quick, To The Point Coronavirus Prep List