3 hospitals reach ICU capacity in Santa Clara County, troubling trend, public health officials say

ByKris Reyes KGO logo
Thursday, December 10, 2020
3 hospitals reach ICU capacity in Santa Clara Co., officials say
Public officials say this is the Thanksgiving surge they were afraid of.

SANTA CLARA COUNTY, Calif. (KGO) -- Several hospitals in Santa Clara County have reached ICU capacity, with only 31 beds left in the county.

"This is as fatigued as we have been in this area in emergency care," said Dr. Paul Silka, head of ER at Regional Medical Center in San Jose.

The hospital ran out of beds Tuesday, including 37 ICU beds. Dr. Silka says because the hospital has a specialized emergency room, it's often the first in the Bay Area to reach capacity.

The numbers also fluctuate as patients are being moved out of the hospital, on a moment to moment basis. But with two more hospitals in Santa Clara County reporting full ICUs -- St. Louise Regional in Gilroy and O'Connor Hospital in San Jose, public health officials worry about the weeks ahead.

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They say this is the Thanksgiving surge they were afraid of.

"We may see up to 100 new cases a day hitting hospitals in the next couple of days, so we are in the meat of it but it's not over yet," said Dr. Ahmad Kamal, COVID-19 director of health care preparedness in Santa Clara County.

At Regional Medical the plan right now is to get patients out of the hospital, as soon as possible and to double up rooms when it's safe to do so. It's all hands on deck with many staff working overtime.

"That means opening up beds in units that had not been open before, utilizing space in creative ways such as post procedural areas, we can use those areas as ICUs," said Dr. Silka, "There's fatigue, there's frustration but I will tell you I'm proud of the group here. They're coming in everyday and doing what they can."

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Public health officials in the county have been voicing their concerns daily about surging COVID-19 numbers. While hospitals like Regional Medical are still managing the surge, they warn that if trends continue, it could be a very bad situation by next week.

Dr. Kamal says he is in daily meetings with heads of all 15 hospitals in the county to go over contingency plans and resource sharing. He added that hospitals can handle some surge but they will start looking at plans to use other spaces such as hospital parking lots and county fairgrounds, soon.

"If everything continues on track, probably beginning of next week we will probably begin to more seriously consider that," said Dr. Silka.

"If we continue to see the level of transmission that we are seeing up until now in which case we may very well see the pictures we saw in Texas, in New York earlier this year," said Dr. Kamal, "This is absolutely the worst we have seen by order of magnitude. We are in a much worse state right now than we were in the summer or spring."

Dr. Kamal added that now is the time to cancel all plans with anyone outside your household and to follow the rules as strictly as possible.

"We are confident that with concerted effort we can avoid that worse case scenario."

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