Health officials concerned about Fresno County's shrinking number of ICU beds

Those issues are only being amplified by local staffing shortages.
FRESNO COUNTY, Calif. (KFSN) -- The number of ICU beds in Fresno County has dropped to an alarming number.

With coronavirus cases on the rise across the nation, Fresno County is running out of beds to treat the sickest COVID patients.

Health officials say medical centers are so overwhelmed with critically ill coronavirus patients they're forced to make room in other hospital areas.

Those issues are only being amplified by local staffing shortages.

The San Joaquin Valley's regional ICU capacity was at about 5% on Tuesday, but in Fresno County, that number is even lower with just nine ICU beds available.

"All the things you are hearing about how impacted our hospitals are about how dire the situation with our ICU's is, is absolutely true," said Dr. Rais Vohra, interim health officer for the Fresno County Department of Public Health.

The county is quickly approaching having zero ICU beds available, as the need only grows.

Health officials estimate that 10% to 15% of coronavirus patients will need critical care given in an ICU.

Some facilities have been left with no choice but to treat patients in other wards.

"Our ICUs are full, and in fact, most hospitals are holding ICU patients in their emergency departments," said Dan Lynch, director of Emergency Medical Services.

Just as alarming is the severe staffing shortages being felt Valley-wide.

Health officials say the state has secured additional staffing for hospitals. They're hoping that some of those resources will make their way here.

"I am very concerned that our hospitals will not be able to meet the demands that have been placed on them," Vohra said.

Dr. Vohra said there's another shortage looming right around the corner.

"Another wild card which I keep telling my team will no doubt play its hand, probably at the most inopportune moment, is that skilled nursing facilities will have a staffing crisis," Vohra said.

At this point, the alternate care site at the Fresno Convention Center has not been activated because of staffing shortages.

Health officials say at the moment, they're focusing on staffing ICU beds at hospitals.

Unlike the convention center, hospitals already have all the necessary medical specialists and equipment.

Even though the county is seeing a surge in cases and hospitalizations now, Dr. Vohra said we wouldn't the peak of Thanksgiving cases for the coming days.

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