Health care providers statewide have also started to use telemedicine at unprecedented levels. Doctors at UCSF have grown from 160 patients per day to over 2,000. In mid-March, doctors from Sutter Health’s 24 hospitals saw approximately 20 to 30 patients per day online; today that number is 6,000.
Bay Area medical leaders have jumped on Zoom calls to discuss contingency plans for a potential patient overflow.
“It was incredibly complicated and incredibly long,” said Dr Adrienne Green, UCSF chief medical officer. “We’ve mainly been doing this as our day job since early February when we had our first patients here. “
Hospitals have erected pop-up tents outside main entrances to sort COVID-19 patients upon arrival, new mobile respiratory clinics have been brought online to handle less severe coronavirus cases and downgraded floors of many facilities have been reopened. Even bankrupt hospitals that were due to close, such as Seton Medical Center in Daly City, were granted a stay of care for patients. In San Diego, hospitals have converted college dorms into alternative care sites. In Los Angeles, a Navy hospital ship anchored off the coast and 3D printing was used to make ventilator parts.
Currently, the number of California COVID-19 patients requiring hospitalization continues to decline and the number of patients in intensive care units has stabilized.
But medical leaders say all the planning will pay off.
“We have now built in muscle memory so we can increase it when needed,” says Dr. Stephen Lockhart, Chief Medical Officer of Sutter Health. Adrienne Green from UCSF agrees. “We are now ready and we have all the building blocks to prepare for a resurgence if that happens.”
This includes not only a peak in coronavirus cases, but also California’s next devastating disaster like a deadly wildfire or earthquake.
The surge capacity of hospitals is one of six metrics Governor Newsom uses to assess when and how to relax stay-at-home orders. The state has prepared 14 facilities with 2,072 beds statewide to accept patients. There are also over 10,000 fans available that are not currently in use.
A report card the recently released state also outlined the progress made in purchasing personal protective equipment and hospital beds in the event of a surge. The state relaxed some restrictions introduced last week as part of its March stay-at-home order, allowing low-risk non-essential businesses to open for the first time in nearly two months. However, most Bay Area counties are sticking to more stringent guidelines at this time. San Francisco and Marin County plan to open some stores on May 18.