Fresno County frontline workers fear Christmas gatherings will 'break' healthcare system

'These last few weeks, I've seen an amount of death I've never seen in my career.'
FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- "These last few weeks, I've seen an amount of death I've never seen in my career," said Dr. Patrick Macmillan.

As of Tuesday, 587 people are hospitalized in Fresno County and there are just over a dozen ICU beds available.

RELATED: Central CA COVID-19 updates: Latest ICU capacities, stay-home order restrictions

Frontline workers painted a grim picture of what they're seeing beyond hospital doors.

"We have patients lined in the hallway, waiting to get off the ambulance. there's a long line to get in now," said Dr. Annaleine Van Reinhart.

And if the surge continues, doctors could face more difficult decisions.

"There's going to be a time where we're going to have to make a decision - that only one person is going to get that ventilator," said Macmillan. "I think it will break the healthcare system if people don't stay home."

Dan Lynch, the emergency medical services director for Fresno County, says they've requested help, and they're expecting a department of defense team from the Air Force to help with staffing and expand ICU capacity.

But with staff shortages so extreme, Fresno County's interim health director Dr. Rais Vohra said it's possible they may have to take more dire measures.

"You're going to have to bring COVID-positive people to help take care of COVID-19 patients - we're not there yet, but we're getting there," he said.

Medical workers say despite the disheartening scene inside the hospitals, they are seeing some hope.

More healthcare workers are getting vaccinated and the county received several more doses of the Pfizer vaccine this week.
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