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California orders hospital transfers, surgery delays amid COVID surge

201229014342-01-california-hospital-1225-restricted-super-tease
FULLERTON, CA - DECEMBER 25: Registered Nurse Joan Pung, right, dawns her isolation gowns in the hallway inside the ICU at Providence St. Jude Medical Center Christmas Day on Friday, Dec. 25, 2020 in Fullerton, CA. The IV stands have been placed outside the rooms of the cover patients to help the nurses from constantly going into the rooms for their safety from exposure to the virus. Each time a mecial worker goes into a covid room they put on an isolation gown and then remove it as the exit the room in this ICU. (Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)

(KION) California's public health officer released an order requiring strained hospitals to delay elective surgical procedures and transfer patients to hospitals with more capacity as the state faces a COVID-19 surge.

As the pandemic continues, staffing and resources are spreading thin, and Intensive Care Unit hospitalizations are increasing.

The goal is to make sure sick patients get the care they need and enough resources are available to care for them.

Under the order, if a region has zero percent ICU availability, hospitals will delay Elective Surgery Acuity Scale (ESAS) Tier 1 and 2 surgical procedures. For example, carpal tunnel and colonoscopy procedures are Tier 1 surgeries that would be delayed. Low risk cancer and non-urgent spine procedures would be delayed under Tier 2. (See chart below for more examples.

Also under the order, hospitals that reached crisis care levels will transfer patients to other hospitals that are capable of accepting them.

The order will remain in effect for at least three weeks.

The San Joaquin Valley Region, which includes San Benito County, currently falls under the zero percent ICU availability condition under the order.

Hazel Hawkins Memorial Hospital in Hollister found out about the order Wednesday morning.

“Right now our medical staff is looking into the order and they are meeting this afternoon to determine how we are going to comply to this order," Spokesperson Frankie Gallagher said.

Back in December, they had already postponed elective surgeries where in-patient admission was required following the procedure, according to Gallagher.

As for transferring patients, Gallagher said the hospital has transferred patients in the past through partnerships with nearby hospitals.

“It’s just a matter of timing and them finding bed space for patients,” Gallagher said. “It’s taken a little bit longer at this point with everybody being full to find bed space to transfer patients to a higher level of care but we have been successful.”

She said the hospital typically transfers patients to Monterey or Santa Clara counties.

Hazel Hawkins’ I-C-U is full and has been for quite sometime.

Gallagher said that they’ve been successful at handling the COVID case load so far, but admits they are dealing with staffing challenges.

We're told they’ve received a dozen new traveling nurses and more are on the way, this will allow them to increase bed capacity should the need arise.

Coronavirus / Health / San Benito County / Top Stories
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Elisha Machado

Elisha Machado is a weekend anchor and multi-media journalist at KION News Channel 5/46.

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