HomeSpike in Virus Cases Stretches Resources

Spike in Virus Cases Stretches Resources

With the number of Southern Californians infected by COVID-19 spiking to unexpected heights — an increase that is reflected in the rise in cases in San Marino — a state agency has issued a “critical request” asking for fire departments to support staffing at hospital emergency rooms.
Locally, COVID-19 cases and deaths have more than doubled in just the six weeks since Thanksgiving. Through Nov. 25 — the day before Thanksgiving — San Marino had 114 cases of the virus, with three deaths, since the pandemic began. As of Tuesday, those numbers had surged to 254 cases and 10 deaths.
Fire services throughout the state have been asked by California’s Office of Emergency Services to provide critically needed paramedics and emergency medical technicians to hospitals, alternative care sites and federal medical stations.
“Utilizing the California Fire and Rescue Mutual Aid System, firefighter paramedics and EMTs are being requested to support the increased patient surge and overwhelmed medical staff,” said the request from OES dated Dec. 28.
“Currently, there are over 650 unfilled orders for additional staffing that could be filled by these critical positions,” said the request. “Approximately 75% of these orders would be for hospital emergency rooms, with the remaining 25% assigned to all floors of the hospital including the ICU.”
The firefighter paramedics and EMTs have been granted additional scope of practice through the California Emergency Medical Services Authority, the OES said. Such personnel will be able to administer certain medications and perform additional procedures beyond what is normal.
San Marino Fire Chief Mario Rueda said firefighter paramedics and EMTs may have enhanced responsibilities, depending on where they are assigned under the emergency order. In California, counties have authority to determine the level of authorization.
Addressing the local impact of COVID-19, Rueda said, “This is unprecedented. But this is one of the things I have been trying to communicate: COVID is invisible. It has been here, but now it seems to be getting worse. It not only impacts you if you have COVID, but it also impacts you for other health concerns. And it could really have a significant impact on our residents.”
Pasadena’s Huntington Memorial Hospital recently released a letter to the community explaining its planned protocols should a post-holiday surge overwhelm the hospital.
“Hospitals like ours are working hard to meet the dramatic rise in needed care with an increased strain on hospital resources,” said the letter posted on Huntington’s website. “The hospital has decided to proactively share our approach to scarce resources as we will likely face additional challenges moving forward after the holiday season.”
The letter explains that the hospital’s board of directors has established a clinical committee, the Huntington Hospital Triage Allocation Team, and “approved the adoption of new protocols that will guide clinical decision making in the event of a further surge of COVID-19 patients.” The committee comprises doctors, a spiritual care provider, a community member, bioethics specialist and other experts who will “ensure our hospital can act quickly to allocate resources in the most effective way to best treat the most patients possible following widely recognized and long-established triage standards adopted by hospitals across the country and world.”
The letter further states that the committee “will be given no information about patient race, ethnicity, religion, citizenship, insurance or any other information unrelated to the person’s health situation” and that “no one person will make a care giving decision.”


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