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SVMH staff member: Entering a COVID unit is like entering a warzone

SVMH COMMAND CENTER
As Thanksgiving continues, Salinas Valley Memorial Healthcare staff are working around the clock to treat COVID-19 patients at the hospital.

SALINAS, Calif. (KION-TV) -- As Thanksgiving continues, Salinas Valley Memorial Healthcare staff are working around the clock to treat COVID-19 patients at the hospital.

At this time the hospital has 32 people hospitalized with COVID-19. That's just less than half of what the entire county is seeing as of Wednesday.

"I've been a nurse for 36 years and I also served in the military, active duty," says Kelly Marsh Hogue. "I have never experienced something like this in my career. You hear about it but you never think a lot about it."

Kelly Marsh Hogue is a registered nurse with SVMH. She's had the task of coordinating with the facility about what beds are available and where patients can be placed. This includes those with COVID-19.

"If you go to one of the COVID units, it felt like walking into a warzone," she explains. "You have three times as many staff as you normally would have. You have double equipment for what you normally have because each patient needs to have their own set of equipment because you can't clean it as well in between. It's just very overwhelming."

The hospital is facing such a large amount of cases that some nurses and other staff have had to come in on Thanksgiving.

One nurse working a shift today is Jamilia Turpin, who says she's worked two or three extra shifts per pay-period since the pandemic started.

"I've been here for a long time so I want to see patients try to get home," Turpin says. "We saw some got discharged today so that was a blessing itself to see that happen."

Houge says finding enough staffing is one issue, but they've been able to tap into "traveling" staff as a resource. This could come with some drawbacks, however, despite how hopeful those "travelers" can be.

"They're not from your own organization so there's a lot of things they still need a fair amount of training on to get them to be more robust and helpful," says Hogue.

But there's a sense of hopefulness from the SVMH staff we heard from today. Many of them were able to sit down and reflect on Thanksgiving as they started rounding out their shifts.

Turpin and another staff member we spoke to believe as long as the community adheres to CDC guidance on masks and social distancing, that will limit a potential holiday coronavirus surge.

Hogue, having also described her experience dealing with the HIV epidemic, simply says "we can get through this."

Coronavirus / Health / Monterey County / News / Salinas

Victor Guzman

Victor Guzman is a multi-media journalist at KION News Channel 5/46.

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