Field hospitals in the Inner Empire will not be activated, despite a surge of coronavirus patients filling the region’s medical centers, officials in Riverside and San Bernardino provinces confirmed on Wednesday (December 30th).
There are no plans to open the sites in Riverside County, in Riverside and Indio, which included 250 beds, and the San Bernardino County sites, at the Victorville Fair and the National Orange Show Event Center in San Bernardino, together. with an unused juvenile detention center in Apple Valley.
There are not enough staff to run the facilities in a former department store in Riverside and the fair in Indio, said Shane Reichardt, a senior public information specialist at the province’s emergency management department. What’s more, the Federal Medical Stations, which came to the country in March and April, are not suited to the type of care needed during the pandemic, he said.
The field hospitals’ unavailability is a blow to efforts to relieve hospitals bursting at the seams with seriously ill COVID-19 patients. As of Monday, December 28, there was a record of 1,488 coronavirus patients in Riverside County hospitals, with 287 in intensive care.
The pressure on hospitals locally and across the country has led Gavin Newsom’s government to introduce a new home order, which was recently extended to Southern California.
On Tuesday, several Riverside County hospital networks, in a joint news release, warned that they were “in a crisis that cares for more COVID-19 patients than they can handle.” They appealed to the public to stay home, distance themselves socially, wear masks and wash their hands to facilitate a boom that treats patients in hospitals and cafes.
The arrival of the field hospitals was praised by officials this spring as part of the province’s plans to withstand a COVID-19 boom. The California National Guard has federally moved beds and other hospital equipment to the Indio Fair and the former Sears in Arlington Avenue in Riverside to be used – 125 beds in Indio, 125 in Riverside – if necessary.
“We know that we will have more cases and that some of them will be serious,” said Dr. Cameron Kaiser, the province’s public health official, said in a news release about Indio Hospital in March. “This medical station will relieve stress from our hospitals, enabling them to provide better care for our sickest individuals and get more people on the road to recovery faster.”
But on Wednesday, Reichardt said officials learned that field hospitals were slated for an earthquake or similar event that left victims with cuts and bruises and other minor trauma.
“What we have learned, for something like a pandemic, is that (the field hospitals) cannot provide the right care we need most,” Reichardt said. “So if you look at the ICU bed situation, those patients can never be treated in the same way in (a field hospital).”
Even if they could, there are not enough staff to run field hospitals, Reichardt said. The field hospitals had staff, but they were sent elsewhere to help besieged hospitals, he added.
Another challenge, Reichardt said, is that the beds in the field hospitals are at a distance of 6 feet without walls or ventilation, which increases the risk of an outbreak if someone is treated with the virus there.
“If we did not have staffing challenges, the field hospitals may be a viable option,” Reichardt said.
Without help from field hospitals to come, hospitals are implementing their training plans, Reichardt said. “Obviously it is affecting our system and we need to continue to evaluate it and try to find ways to meet the needs.”
Justine Rodriguez, a spokeswoman for Arrowhead Regional Medical Center, said in an email that field hospitals “were included in the state’s response and that no facility is currently being planned for San Bernardino County.”
Arrowhead, which is run by the province, has found a “portable structure” that is in the hospital’s parking lot and is part of its training plan, Rodriguez said. “The priority is to keep people in the hospital buildings … and to activate the tent only when the first strategy is exhausted.”
Earlier this year, San Bernardino province officials said the three sites could be converted into field hospitals should the need arise.
Rodriguez said the sites were “for the potential use of local hospitals” and that any decision to activate federal medical stations in the country would come at the state or federal level.
Manuel Perez, supervisor of Riverside County, said county officials at first thought the federal field hospitals could help. “I think we all had expectations that were not realistic at the time. “Maybe we just did not know what a (Federal Medical Station) should be used for,” he said.
“I’m not a doctor. I’m not a person working in emergency services. As a policy maker, I had the hope that we (field hospitals) would be an entity that could provide more service … We have now learned that this is not the case. ”
Perez said he hopes to work with state or federal officials to obtain more staff and resources to truly mobilize the field hospitals.