To handle an overflow of patients, the alternative care facility at Palomar Medical Center could open as early as Christmas Day.
SAN DIEGO COUNTY, Calif. — California surpassed a grim milestone this week, as the first state in the nation with more than two million confirmed cases of Coronavirus.
As the number of cases continues to surge since Thanksgiving, work is now underway to prepare for an overflow of patients in hospitals throughout Southern California.
Health officials point out that the two million mark comes just six weeks after California hit the one million mark.
“We are at a point where we are maxing out our ICU capacity, and stretching our staff well beyond normal times,” said Scripps Health CEO Chris Van Gorder.
As hospitalization rates continue to rise and the number of available intensive care beds decline, medical systems throughout California are now in surge mode.
Already, four alternative care sites have been set up statewide to handle an increasing overflow of patients.
“We are bringing a fifth alternative care site out of warm status.,” Governor Gavin Newsom confirmed, “We are standing up that site, an FMS (federal medical station) down in San Diego.”
This federal medical station will occupy the top two floors of Palomar Medical center in Escondido, which are currently not being used.
A spokesman for the California Office of Emergency Services tells News 8 that the California National Guard is now building out the site, which will possibly open as early as Christmas Day, with enough staff initially to serve 20 patients. Once complete, it will be capable of handling more than 200 patients.
This alternative care site will serve the wider San Diego region, with a special focus on taking the pressure off overburdened hospitals in neighboring Imperial County.
“They ultimately are part of a back system of care which allows us to decompress, allows us more flexibility within the existing footprint of the hospitals themselves,” Newsom said.
While this new surge facility comes on board, questions remain over whether the naval medical ship USNS Mercy, deployed earlier on during the pandemic to treat non-COVID patients, will be brought back during this new surge.
Governor Newsom confirmed that the state is currently not pursuing the ship itself.
“What we are looking at, however, is the personnel,” he added, “folks who are often deployed on the USNS would be identified as a top priority staffing.”
Medical staffing continues to be the greatest need, according to the governor, who said he expects more of the 3,000 contract health care workers California is seeking to arrive shortly after the holidays.