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Desert Regional’s chief quality officer discusses surge in patients, tents added, & new antibody clinic

Desert Regional Medical Center in Palm Springs is anticipating the surge of coronavirus patients will last for the next several weeks.

A new tent went up today in the hospital's parking lot to help deal with the surge in patients. But there is hope, with a new clinic that will soon help patients fight the virus.

Desert Regional's chief quality officer Christine Langenwalter spoke with News Channel 3's Peter Daut about the recent happenings in the hospital.

Peter: What's the latest at Desert Regional?

Langenwalter: "We basically have 118 COVID positives in-house today, and 45 at JFK, our sister facility. We've noticed that pretty much since just after the Christmas holidays, we've been bouncing around between about 115 and 125 patients, and we're anticipating that that surge is going to stay with us for the next several weeks. So the surge is continuing from the holiday it's not lessening. Now it's not lessening. It's kind of what we would call plateaued it's, it's, you'll see it on the grid it's plateaued at this point, and we expect that, that there's just a whole lot of people out there that are in early stages of COVID that will end up needing to be hospitalized. And based on the daily numbers of new patients testing positive or we're anticipating that we're going to stay at this high number for a while longer."

Peter: So at this point, have you seen any positive impact from the vaccine? It sounds like no

Langenwalter: "I think the number one thing to consider with the vaccine as we started with our health care workers and our physicians and our frontline workers and our EMFS first. And so, the number one thing that we want to do is make sure that we have the caretakers to care for those that are coming in sick. And so, yes, our healthcare staff is, is staying healthy, and we are using creative ways to open search beds and things like that to handle the ongoing surging volumes."

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Peter: And speaking of surge volume I recently spoke with someone from Eisenhower Health. They said that they're now setting up tents, to treat patients as they continue to see an increase in coronavirus patients. Is that something being seen at Desert Regional or are you anticipating having to do that as well?

Langenwalter: "Actually we have outside. We have a portable annex or trailer that we've been using for a number of weeks already. We used it during our emergency room remodel, and so now we're using that as a medics like Urgent Care Area to check-in patients that have lower acuity, lower signs of symptoms, so we can get them treated quickly. And as we speak right now they're actually erecting a tent out in our parking lot. So, the county of Riverside has helped set it set that up for us. They're doing that now you said. Correct."

Peter: We're also now hearing reports of some places like Arizona, for example, having children being admitted to hospitals for coronavirus. Have you noticed any children in our community being admitted or what demographic of patients are you seeing at the hospital?

Langenwalter: "I would say our demographic pretty much ranges from those in their 20s, you know obviously past their 80s. We're seeing a lot in their 50s and 60s that have additional problems with their health, that are requiring them to be hospitalized maybe it's diabetes maybe it's, you know, a history of high blood pressure, those that have obesity. You know, an unchecked diabetes again are problematic. We are having a few children we have a small pediatric ward here. We have had a few children come through, but if they are sick enough to really need intensive level care. Then we transferred to whatever facilities that has an intensive care for children, such as Loma Linda."

Peter: How are vaccination efforts at the hospital so far?

Langenwalter: "I am so proud of our vaccination team here it's it's really really organized. It's going very well. Last week on Friday, we opened up to all of our volunteers, many of who have been at home on quarantine over 65 that haven't been able to come into the building but we were able to get it out to them and also open it up to some firefighters and other frontline workers, and it's going very well, very organized and we're looking forward to opening it further to our Cancer Center patients. This week, and to work with the community partners to see how we can do some more community wide efforts to get it. Get people vaccinated more quickly."

Peter: There have been some allergic reactions to the Moderna vaccine and health officials have now issued a warning because of a batch of the Moderna vaccine. What can you tell us about this and is this concerning?

Langenwalter: "I checked with our staff this morning. We do not have that lot of the Moderna vaccine here at Desert Regional. I'm not sure about elsewhere in Riverside County [The county does not either]. One thing was the Moderna vaccine is one of those vaccines that used in more of the big community events. Doesn't require a deep freezer like the Pfizer vaccine that we have. That being said, whenever you have large, large, large gatherings of people, I think everyone's a little nervous. We have had, you know, some people feel a little faint, things like that and in some of the events, true allergic reactions are possible and I think they're just doing this out of an abundance of caution to make sure if there's anything in that lot, that is a concern, then they're dealing with that. But, I do know that
you know it is a little nerve-wracking to get your vaccine and, you know, everybody's emotions are high, so sometimes that causes the same symptoms that you might see in an allergic reaction where you feel like you're gonna pass out or you are feeling flushed so they're investigating right now. I know their vaccine is highly safe. And I wouldn't let this deter anyone from going to get the vaccine."

Check out more on the county's response to batch of Moderna vaccine

Peter: You told me something interesting Christine that when a patient with coronavirus is discharged, you actually play music for them. What song?

Langenwalter: "Here comes the sun. It's an excerpt from 'Here Comes the Sun' and Peter, we talked last time when I interviewed about the toll on our frontline staff. And one of the things, several of the things, that we've thought of to actually kind of encourage our staff and remind them why we're working so hard is one to get some additional resources in here if they just want somebody to talk to. But one of the hospitals across the nation, I've seen several of them are doing this, and they play an excerpt from 'Here Comes' as soon as somebody is getting ready to be wheeled out of the building that has actually battled COVID and won the battle and is going to their home. And, so we hear it over our PA system and, it is just so heartwrenching, heartwrenching and heartwarming to me to hear that music. We heard it twice today before I called you in the last 30 minutes so we know people are battling this virus and they're going home from it, they're being successful. And our frontline staff are tired but hopefully this is just an encouragement to them and their families. Knowing that we are having way more people that are being successfully treated and sent home from the virus."

Peter: What a perfect song. That must make you feel really good inside to know that there is the sun there's hope for a lot of these people and also the frontline workers.

Langenwalter: "It's another point of hope that I don't know if you've mentioned in your broadcasts, that we are getting ready to open."

"Starting tomorrow, a monoclonal antibody infusion clinic here. Monoclonal antibodies are something that can help people develop an immunity and the ability to fight off COVID if they're in early stages of the disease. So let's say somebody comes to our emergency room and they're not requiring oxygen at home or they're not sick enough to be at the hospital but we want to keep them in that state we want to help them battle this and get over it quickly. We can give them an infusion. It does require an intravenous line it does require you to get 30 minutes of monitoring past the one hour infusion. And so it did take a little bit of setup for us to be able to do that in fusion clinic, but we are setting it up so that our doctors in the emergency room can prescribe that clinic to our patients that don't need to be hospitalized yet, are there, but are still suffering from COVID, so that that clinic. I think is hopefully another reason to, to celebrate that the sun is coming out and we're hopefully going to battle this and get this under control really quickly."

Peter: How many patients are you hoping to treat with this infusion?

Langenwalter: "We're hoping to treat as many that are discharged with COVID, at this point. Some of these treatments are supply and demand so once we get it going and we get the bugs worked out and we get a good flow of patients, we'll be able to see how many in a day that we can possibly do right now we're doing it two days a week. And then once the demand increases, we will work with the community to increase, and hopefully be able to do it as many days during the week as necessary."

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