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Eisenhower Health’s chief medical officer shares latest update on the hospital

Doctors at Eisenhower Health in Rancho Mirage say they are grateful for the federal medical team that recently arrived at the hospital to help overwhelmed staff.

Shortly before the team's arrival, the hospital was at "virtually" 100 percent staffing capacity with approximately 80% of the hospital beds in use.

"So we were certainly seeing an upstroke in the number of cases that we were seeing at the hospital. We were really reaching capacity and were threatening to exceed that capacity and our challenge here is our inability this go around to get additional staffing from outside sources," Williamson said. "We typically turn to agencies that provide temporary nurses and travelling nurses and so on, but they were really pretty much tapped out because of the national nature of this pandemic. So we had extra bed capacity we had physical beds that we could have taken more patients, but couldn't really staff those beds. So we reached out to the county of Riverside if they had any resources we could tap into to provide additional staff for us, and through the county, they then contacted FEMA sort of through a chain of command through the national guard, the army, eventually we ended up with a department of defense team, this one comes from the US Air Force, from Travis Air Force Base, deployed a team of 21 medical professionals to help us out with our staffing issues here at Eisenhower."

Williamson said the federal medical teams has been a much needed help for the hospital.

"It's been awesome since they arrived. First of all, the team here at Eisenhower was very grateful to have the help as we made our initial tour with the advance team that was coming to prepare to arrive for the full team, the staff were literally stopping in the hallways and thanking them for coming to help us out," Williamson recalled. "And they, like most military operations, they hit the ground running. They were ready to go, we went through a day of orientation and training on our computer systems, protocols and so on, and then starting on Saturday they were at the bedside providing care."

Williamson says things are looking better at the hospital. The extra staffing and the decline in the number of patients has helped everyone get a much-needed breather.

"It seems the numbers have tapered off. Our numbers in the ICU are down just a little bit but fairly stable, but more importantly, up in the floors, we've definitely seen a drop in the numbers. We had peaked at over 90 patients in the hospital and are now down about 70 patients in the hospital with COVID at the moment," Williamson said. "So between the numbers tapering off just a bit and the arrival of the department of defense team, it's given the staff here a much-needed break so they can step back, just get a breather, rest up a bit and get ready for coming back to work going strong so they continue to care for patients in the valley."

Williamson then shared the latest on the hospital's surge plan.

"So, fortunately, we are still operating within our regular capacity other than certainly we consider part of a surge plan to invite outside help like the department of defense in here, but we are not having to move into additional space outside of our normal patient care area as of yet," Williamson said.

And his hopes that what we're seeing recently in terms of hospitalizations continues.

"I really hope that what we're seeing in terms of a trend of the curve once again flattening is really reflective of the fact that I think the community has heard the message. It's been out there all over the media and we really appreciate the media's help in getting the message out that we need to really hunker down a bit longer. Be sure we're staying home as much as we reasonably can, wearing our masks and social distancing and once again we are seeing that curve flatten out and if we can sustain it at this level I think we can continue to make it through without having to get into serious issues with surge plan where we can potentially start to compromise care," Williamson said.

Williamson said he hopes this recent data is more of a trend but it is still too early to declare victory or predict what might come in the fall.

"I think everyone is concerned about what happens in the fall. Are we going to see an increase in the number of COVID cases? Are we going to see a mix of COVID and flu cases that stress the same areas of the hospital, the respiratory therapy department, the intensive care unit, and so on? So we're certainly bracing for the possibility. That has to be countered by the fact that some of our population may not be able to come back in the fall. Some Canadians may not be able to travel still at that point, there's a lot of discussion about what's going to happen at the border, what's going to happen with their insurance plans, it's difficult to predict right now where all that's going to land," Williamson said.

Peter Daut then asked Williamson for an update on the hospital's supply of Remdesivir. Early this month, there was reportedly a shortage in the supply of drug, which is used to help treat patients with coronavirus.

"There is still a national shortage of Remdesivir and we are working actually just speaking with our director of critical care this morning on looking at trying to hone in a little better on where we truly believe the medication will produce positive benefit. There is still relatively little in the way of studies out there to guide us when we should be using this medication. It is in short supply so we need to do a better job of identifying where we can use that to the best benefit so that's an ongoing project we're working on right now," Williamson said.

The last question of the interview was about Imperial County. Patients from the county have been transferred over to Riverside County hospitals since late May after hospitals reached capacity.

According to Williamson, Eisenhower Health has not treated any patients from Imperial County recently, but that could change soon.

"One of the conditions really is the Department of Defense being here is the possibility that we might have to take some additional patients here from Imperial County. But so far we've not seen that, I think they've been managing the care of those patients reasonably well. There is another team as I understand that is deployed there in Imperial County and deployed there before our team was, so as of yet we've not seen any more patients coming from Imperial County," Williamson said.

As of July 20, there are 3 coronavirus patients from Imperial County in hospitals across Riverside County.

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