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Coronavirus

Dr. Alan Willamson shares alarming update on situation at Eisenhower Health

At no point in the pandemic has it been more challenging for staff at Eisenhower Health in Rancho Mirage than right now.

The hospital is trying to deal with the rising surge in patients.

News Channel 3's Peter Daut spoke with Eisenhower Health's, chief medical officer Dr. Alan Williamson on how they're managing.

Peter: What is the latest at Eisenhower Health?

Williamson: We're definitely seeing now our thanksgiving surge, we're in the thick of that, we have about 132 patients in the hospital today with COVID. Remembering that the worst of the surge that we had in the summer was only about 85 to 90 patients so we're already well beyond that. We forecast that we're still probably a couple of weeks away from the actual peak from post-Thanksgiving.

Peter: If you could put this in perspective for us Dr. Williamson, is this the worst that it's ever been during the pandemic?

Williamson: Oh absolutely, absolutely without question the rate of rise that we saw in this surge, definitely much deeper than what we saw in the Memorial Day, post-Memorial Day surge so we are very concerned about how high this is going to take us. And then equally importantly, very concerned about the fact that Christmas holidays then fall immediately on the tail end of that surge so we will barely be emerging from the post-Thanksgiving surge and heading right back into a post-Christmas holiday surge.

Peter: Have you had to make any changes to the hospital surge plan?

Williamson: Our surge plan changes, pretty regularly, as we keep adapting and trying to model exactly what we have seen. So, we had actually several meetings already this morning looking at some modeling based on what did we see happen in Memorial Day, ever after Memorial Day. In reality, as opposed to theoretical planning, based on what we think might occur. So, we've created a new model based on what we actually saw in terms of the timing of when the cases start to go up, 'When did they peak, when do they start to return back to normal.' And the numbers are quite concerning obviously, so we are working with those numbers now to really understand how will we be able to meet those requirements. We have the facilities, I'm not overly worried about actual bed capacity per se, but as we've said over and over again and all the other hospitals staffing is really the critical issue. how are we going to be able to staff those beds effectively so that we can care for our patients?

Peter: I know we've talked about staffing before so then let me ask you, what do you do in the situation where you do need more staff is the county or the state helping in any way or where are you getting these extra staff members.

Williamson: So, you know, there are many many avenues that we're really pursuing to try to understand, you know, where can we get additional staff in order to help both internally and externally, as we've talked about before the concern is really looking for external sources and any enormous numbers, is probably not realistic because the entire country is wrestling with the same problem, largely simultaneously. So we we have already reached out to the county into the state for additional outside resources. we've actually received a couple of nurses from the state. It's still a very small number. In reality i think we're going to have to solve this, largely on our own.

We're looking at potentially obviously having to modify the way that we are seeing patients in the clinic. We know that we've used telemedicine in the past fairly effectively to cut down on the number of patients that were coming in to see the physicians and we can't do away with in-person visits completely but perhaps we can adjust our schedules around so that we're seeing certain days only seeing video visits, and we can free up nursing staff, potentially out in the clinics to come help backup our nurses in the hospital.

Peter: What's the latest with elective procedures at the hospital? Are you still encouraging patients to come into the emergency room, who don't have coronavirus

Williamson: Let me address the latter question first, because that's really critical. At this point, you know, we still need to remember that there are many patients that have acute medical problems that need to be taken care of.

We have heart attacks or strokes we have other acute medical illnesses and surgical illnesses that need to be addressed. And we are doing everything we possibly can and we are still very confident that we still have a safe environment and that we can care for those people safely and they are independent of our concerns right now we're COVID we understand that we still have to take care of those patients that's part of the search plan to understand. Okay, we still have 50 to 100 patients that are non COVID that still need to be managed appropriately and safely and we're very confident we can keep doing.

So please don't put off if you're having chest pain if you're having symptoms of stroke if you're having major medical illnesses. Please don't put off coming to the emergency department if need be, or at least contacting your physician getting medical advice because it is safe to come to the hospital if you need to come here and elected preceptors.

In terms of the surgical schedule we are definitely looking at that right now we are working very closely with our surgeons and other proceduralist including cardiology gastroenterology and so on, and focusing at this point primarily on understanding the impact on inpatient care, meaning patients that are going to need Intensive Care Unit beds or hospital beds for their recovery. Can we safely postpone their surgery, or at least can we be very cognizant of how we spread those surgeries out over the course of a week over a course of a month so that we don't overwhelm the system/

We do expect at some point it is quite likely that we will have to stop elective surgery completely but we're trying to do it in a logical stepwise fashion

Peter: How are vaccinations going so far at the hospital health care workers?

Williamson: So obviously, we're very excited to see vaccinations rolling out, and when it finally is rolled out to the community is when of course it will finally have a major impact on our numbers. Right now, it's about being sure that we protect the health care staff so that they're there for you if you become ill and need to come to the hospital to be cared for, it's going pretty well right now it is quite a logistical issue I think this is an interesting run-up to what's going to happen as we start to expand into the community and know that we're going to be looking at as a nation trying to vaccinate 300 million people, how is that going to happen.

We're also cognizant of the fact that five to perhaps 10% of people do get a significant reaction where for a day or two, they have fever, chills body aches and so on. So timing this around their work schedule because we can't afford to lose five to 10% of our of our staff on any given day. So we have to pace how we're doing the vaccinations to be sure that we don't end up all of a sudden with a lot of people calling us sick as a result of vaccine.

Peter: As you know Dr. Williamson we're encouraging our viewers to send in vaccine related questions to coronavirus@kesq.com and one of our viewers would like to know, because both Pfizer and moderna require two doses, can you get the first dose from one maker, and then the second dose from the other.

Williamson: At this point the recommendation would be to continue with same provider because the vaccines are different, even though they are both pressing the same virus they are different in terms of how they work, From a clinical standpoint as a patient as a recipient of the vaccine. One shouldn't really worry about it.

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