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More Military Teams Help Valley Hospitals as COVID-19 Takes Toll on Staff



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Hospital staffing amid the coronavirus pandemic is a big challenge in the Valley.

In response, the Fresno County Office of Emergency Medical Services is asking the state for more help. That’s on top of the military boots on the ground the Valley has already received.

Another military team arrived in Madera on Monday morning. And, several other military teams are already into their second week assisting other Valley hospitals.

Meanwhile, the state’s COVID-19 dashboard shows a little improvement in Fresno County: 14% of 149 ICU beds are available, up from 9% last Friday.

Elsewhere in the Valley, Madera has 19% of its ICU beds available, Tulare 28%, and Merced 14%.

Fresno County isn’t taking any chances.

“We have placed our name on the list with the state to get another FEMA/DOD team if and when it becomes available,” EMS director Daniel Lynch tells GV Wire℠ by email. “We can accept it or not at that time, depending on current status.”

Madera Community Hospital

During a Friday Zoom conference call, Lynch said that Madera Community Hospital reached out to him for staffing help.

Hospital spokesperson Sherrie Bakke confirmed via email that part of a military team arrived Monday.

“We have 3 members of the National Guard who reported for duty this morning at 8:00 a.m. 2 Registered Nurses and 1 Respiratory Therapist,” said Bakke.

Saint Agnes Medical Center

Saint Agnes Medical Center on Friday had asked the county for extra help. However, Lynch said that Saint Agnes has since pulled back its request after getting the needed staff through agency lists and travel nurses.

Hospital spokesperson Kelley Sanchez says there are 88 employees that either have COVID-19 or are self quarantining. The total hospital staff is about 2,900.

Community Medical Centers

Community Medical Centers keeps a dashboard on its website updated with daily COVID-19 counts and the number of staff impacted by the virus.

As of Monday morning, 219 staff members were either COVID-19 positive or in self-isolation.

Community Regional Medical Center received a 20-member team about 10 days ago from Travis Air Force Base. The team includes three physicians, two mid-level providers, two respiratory therapists, and 13 ICU registered nurses. They are assigned for 30 days.

“These additional resources will provide relief for our frontline healthcare professionals during the pandemic,” said Dr. Thomas Utecht, a senior vice president and the chief medical officer for Community Medical Centers.

Kaweah Delta

Ninety-seven Kaweah Delta Hospital employees in Visalia are in quarantine, and several others are on leave. The hospital has about 5,000 employees.

“I wouldn’t say that we are experiencing what New York and New Jersey experienced, but it is getting increasingly more serious,” said Gary Herbst, Kaweah Delta’s chief executive officer.

On Friday, of its 330 beds for adults (excluding maternal child health) 302 were occupied, 81 by COVID-19 positive patients. However, the challenge for Kaweah Delta is staffing those beds.

“We could probably only staff a handful of those (open) beds,” said Herbst.

Kaweah Delta accepted the U.S. Department of Defense’s offer to send 20 military healthcare workers about a week and a half ago. Most of them are from Travis.

Here are photos from the hospital’s Facebook page of the team and staff interacting.

Adventist Hanford

“To respect the privacy of our associates, we are not releasing numbers” of COVID-19 positive employees, communications manager Amanda Jaurigui told GV Wire℠ by email. She does say that the hospital is not experiencing an outbreak at this time.

Adventist Health Hanford also welcomed a clinical team from the Department of Defense to provide additional capacity to support physicians and nurses caring for COVID-19 patients.

The hospital shared a photo of the team on the day of its arrival.

DoD team gets briefed at Adventist Health Hanford on Wednesday, July 22, 2020. (Adventist Health)

Valley Children’s Hospital

Zara Arboleda, director of communications for Valley Children’s Healthcare, said via text that the number of staff members testing positive for COVID-19 is “very low.”

In a Zoom call with reporters Thursday, Valley Children’s released internal data showing that children are suffering impacts from COVID-19 in a pushback against the national narrative that children are unlikely to contract the coronavirus and recover quickly if they do get it.

Here are the hospital’s numbers since the pandemic began:

  • 6,473 COVID-19 tests
  • 8.0% positivity rate
  • 69 COVID-19 patients requiring hospitalization (17% of those sick enough for pediatric ICU care)