Both, Desert Regional Medical Center and JFK Memorial Hospital are preparing for more traveling nurses to help beleaguered staff but there has been a drop in hospitalizations and ICU patients.
The medical director of emergency operations, Dr. Randall McCafferty, joined Peter Daut to discuss the latest update on the status of the hospital.
Peter: How are things right now at both JFK and Desert Regional hospitals?
McCafferty: We've had a few interviews here now, and at the last interview, I talked about an ongoing surge that we were seeing and anticipated market increase that ran through the middle of August. I'm somewhat happy to say that there has been a leveling off, if not a decline over the last two weeks, we've probably reached that peak about 10 to 14 days ago when we last spoke. That is not to say that we are out of the woods, we still have an extremely high census, but there has been a small dip in hospitalizations and ICU needs between our two hospitals, and to a certain extent, looking at the county as well.
Peter: How promising is that for you?
McCafferty: You know, it was very nerve-wracking to see the numbers continue to go up, we discussed the stress and the toll that takes on the institution and the personnel here, so it is with great relief that we are seeing this slight downturn, but that doesn't mean we should stop doing the mitigation strategies that we advocated for.
Peter: You talk about the toll that this has taken on your personnel, what are some of the biggest challenges your staff is dealing with right now, and how are you addressing those challenges?
McCafferty: Well again, it's not unheard of for a well-developed healthcare system to have surges from a variety of different injuries, trauma, flu season, etc. The real challenge here has been the sustained high census, high acuity, which we're is not providing healthcare workers any reprieve. I've noticed its starting to wear on them, the stress. The healthcare system has asked and the frontline workers have delivered 120 percent workload. I still fervently believe they're delivering 100 percent, but really that challenge of going the extra yard by each of our workers is wearing on them.
Peter: So are you bringing in outside staff? I know last time we spoke you mentioned traveling nurses.
McCafferty: Absolutely, so in response to this ongoing effort, we have traveling nurses, I believe at the moment around 60 or 70 individuals on the ground. They're in various phases of actually working or still onboarding in the system, we have many many many more in the pipeline. In addition to the nurses the RT, the other support staff personnel efforts, there have been some institute and wellness programs for physicians and employment assistance programs for other staff, so all these efforts are put into place. I think it's a little too early at the individual level to feel the impact, but I think we're taking a step in the right direction.
Peter: how is ICU capacity right now?
McCafferty: We're prepared for surges. We have not been normal now for four months. We've had high ICU capacities in excess of our licensed bed numbers, but a well-developed healthcare system is prepared for that eventuality, and thus far we have continued to maintain the ability to house our patients with ICUs, not without stress but certainly, we continue to manage our ICU patients and open new beds as necessary.
Peter: Are you still seeing younger patients?
McCafferty: We're seeing a broad array of demographics across all age spectrums, very similar to what we discussed last time, and different than what we saw in the first few months of this.
Peter: Are you still dealing with a shortage of drugs like remdesivir?
McCafferty: Absolutely, that's still in emergency use, we do have a policy and protocol established, we are beginning to have a nurse navigator assist with that, because that in addition to the remdesivir, A lot of other different treatment protocols, there are still some restricted use, so we are establishing protocols to deliver those medications to deliver the greatest good to our community.
Peter: Are you still concerned, Dr. McCafferty, that there could be another major surge of this virus in just a few months?
McCafferty: This has had many ups and downs. A lot of the forecasting has not been fully accurate. We are still in the midst of this, our numbers are exceedingly high, I would encourage all those in the community to recognize that this is a real disease, We are still battling it here in the front lines. Those in the community should continue to practice these things that we advocate for such as hand washing, masking and social distancing, and yes take this disease real, and please help your neighbors and help your community out by following some of these simple measures.