The escalating number of coronavirus cases in Riverside County has raised concerns about hospitals’ ability to cope, but the Riverside University Medical Center in Moreno Valley is in a position to handle whatever challenges may be ahead, its CEO said Wednesday.
“The difference this time around is we are more prepared and ready to handle the surge,” Jennifer Cruikshank told City News Service. “In the summer, we were prepared, as well, but there were still lessons to learn that have made this go-around more fluid. Staff is ready to serve.”
The county on Tuesday reached the 600-level in coronavirus-related hospitalizations, roughly matching the plateau of late July, when the first “surge” was documented, according to the Riverside University Health System.
According to Cruikshank, the county hospital is not saturated, and there are still patient beds available. The usual capacity is 439.
The medical center is the largest treatment facility available in western Riverside County.
“Currently we are working on staffing to accommodate the increase in cases, along with bed allocation and conversion to place those patients,” the CEO said, adding that “several patient care units are COVID-only.”
She said there remains sufficient space for treatment of non-COVID patients.
The triaging process that was refined during the summer remains in place, according to Cruikshank.
“We ask all visitors to answer a questionnaire about symptoms and exposure, placing those (who) signal possible COVID positivity in negative pressure rooms and expediting their visit to see the physician,” she said. “We have had no issues managing confirmed caseloads.”
One oddity that’s surfaced is an “increase in the amount of asymptomatic patients” — people coming to the hospital and manifesting no outward signs of COVID-19, but coming up positive during screenings, Cruikshank said.
The issue has been raised in health studies and was recently highlighted by Beda Stadler, former director of the University of Bern Institute of Virology & Immunology, who said even “dead particles” of coronavirus turn up in diagnostic tests of people who may have had the virus but no longer pose a transmission threat.
“Our entire team has and continues to work tirelessly to ensure we can support the volume of patients coming to us to receive care while we keep our teams safe,” Cruikshank said.
She acknowledged that there are ongoing concerns about the potential for staff becoming infected or having to drop shifts to “care for ill family members.”
“RUHS, just like many hospitals across the county, does not have as many staff as we had in the summer surge because today, we are competing with hospitals nationally for those same resources that were not in such high demand across the country during the summer surge,” the CEO told CNS.
On the upside, protocols have been amplified “to reduce hospitalized length of stay,” moving people out of patient beds and back home to recover, according to Cruikshank.
She said there is a reliable stock of personal protective equipment available, “and communication amongst teams” is on point.
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