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COVID Surges in Fresno. No Hospital Beds Available.

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Hospitals across the Valley are overwhelmed with ICU patients as health officials seek help from other regions and military teams. (Shutterstock)
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As COVID cases continue to grow and hospitals overflow with patients, Valley health officials warn there is no more room.

“We all need to take the utmost precaution in keeping ourselves safe because there really is no capacity in the healthcare system at this time,” said Dr. Rais Vohra, interim health officer for Fresno County, during a Zoom briefing on Friday.

Hospitals Across the Valley Exceed Capacity

Fresno County EMS Director Dan Lynch says the Valley’s healthcare system is in a state of “paralysis,” as evidenced by the transfer of patients to Watsonville and Woodland, and the likelihood of moving patients to Palo Alto, Santa Clara, and San Mateo.

“I want to reiterate that the 26 years that I’ve been in this position, we have never been in a situation where we had to transfer ICU patients out of our area because of sheer volume,” said Lynch.

To make matters worse, family members now have to travel longer distances in support of COVID-19 patients. And, transferring the patients is complicated by the difficulty of moving medical equipment.

According to Lynch, there are only two solutions: increase staffing to help with the surge of ICU patients or move them out so they can maintain a level of care and make room for people coming in.

As of this past weekend, eight ICU patients had been moved out of the region.

County Seeks Immediate ICU Staffing

During the summer and winter surges last year, Lynch says they were provided with extra staffing: well-trained ICU military medical professionals.

“That doesn’t seem to be something that’s available to us this time, because I got to tell you that during the winter time period, they were a saving grace for this area,” said Lynch. “It would be an awesome thing to get that (Department of Defense) team back, just to give us 30 days of breathing room and surge in our ICU capacities.”

Rep. Jim Costa (D-Fresno) said he would request additional support from state and federal officials.

Every Hospital in Fresno, Clovis, Madera Is Full

Dr. Thomas Utecht of Community Medical Centers said both CRMC and Clovis Medical centers are running beyond capacity — 120% to 130%.

“That means we’re taking care of patients in places that aren’t meant to take care of patients, conference rooms, shelled out construction space, and other areas of the hospital that were designed for one type of patient care that we need to use for a different type of patient care,” said Utecht.

Ivonne Der Torosian, a vice president for St. Agnes Medical Center, says they are running out of ICU beds on a daily basis.

“We’re really struggling to be able to place patients from the emergency room up in our floors because they’re completely full — we’ve converted four units for critical care and ICU beds,” said Der Torosian.

Chuck Bettinger from the VA says they have had an influx of patients coming in with smoke-related respiratory problems and they’ve expanded their COVID units to 40 beds.

Costa said that Madera Community Hospital, Valley Children’s and Mercy Hospital in Merced are in the same situation.

Fresno COVID Cases and Deaths

Currently, there are 115,502 confirmed total cases and a total of 1,790 deaths in Fresno County.

As of Friday, Aug. 27, 403 COVID patients were hospitalized with 80 in the ICU.

Delta variant cases have also increased from 347 cases from almost two weeks ago to 450 cases as of last Friday.

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