Bay Area ICU doctor describes coronavirus patients 'pleading for vaccine' after being admitted

90% of ICU patients across Sutter Health hospitals are "unvaccinated and young," the company told ABC7 News.

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Friday, September 10, 2021
Bay Area ICU doctor describes patients 'pleading for vaccine'
Bay Area doctors say that many coronavirus patients in the ICU are pleading for the vaccine upon arrival, but "it's too late."

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Bay Area hospitals are taking in patients from California's Central Valley as intensive care units in that part of the region are overwhelmed.

"We are hearing so many people filled with regret from not getting the vaccine," said Dr. Vanessa Walker, an ICU critical-care physician with Sutter Health. "Many of them are actually asking for vaccine on arrival and it's too late."

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Walker explains Sutter Health is using its resources to transfer patients in critical need of care to hospital systems across Northern California as there's heightened demand for more space.

Sutter Health confirmed to ABC7 across all 24 hospitals, 90 percent of ICU patients are unvaccinated and a majority are reported to be "young," between 30 to 40 years old.

"It's really challenging to see these patients with young families at home, face timing their children as they're struggling to breathe on high-flow oxygen," said Walker.

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Dr. Tom Shaughnessy, the Medical Director for Sutter Health in the Bay Area, told ABC7 he's noticed the long-term outcome of ICU patients has gotten worse in the past month.

"Subjectively, I think that some of these patients with the Delta variant are having prolonged courses because of the intensity of their illness," said Shaughnessy.

ABC7's data analysis shows the number of ICU patients reported across the Bay Area has started to plateau and hospitalizations have declined since August 20. But, doctors are bracing for the impacts of Labor Day and a possible winter surge right as flu season kicks in.

"It's like a sawtooth pattern right now," said UCSF's Dr. George Rutherford. "We'll have to see if it goes back up again. Which I hope it doesn't."

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Solano County is reporting the highest number of hospitalizations across the Bay Area as of Aug. 31 at 37 per 100,000 people. Contra Costa and Napa Counties follow behind with 17 hospitalizations per 100,000 people. The last time all three counties reported this rate was in late January during the height of the winter surge.

"I am concerned about our bed capacity once winter rolls around," said Walker. "We'll be dealing with other illnesses and the flu... which is why it's so important everybody gets vaccinated now."

State data shows ICU capacity isn't overwhelmed in the Bay Area, but ABC7 confirmed Sutter Health, Stanford, and UCSF are all preparing to accommodate an influx of patients if need be.

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