Porterville alternative care site reopens, starts accepting COVID-19 patients

PORTERVILLE, Calif. (KFSN) -- Sierra View Medical Center doesn't have space or staff to keep up with the never-ending flow of patients needing serious medical care.

So the hospital officials say they have been forced to hold patients in the emergency department for up to 24 hours before a staffed bed becomes available.

At times, they've also held patients in a conference room to cut down on crowding in the ED.

"This is really an urgent time for us to be able to transition some patients out of the hospital," said SVMC Chief Nurse Executive Dr. Jeffery Hudson-Covolo.

That may happen soon because less than five miles away, a COVID-19 surge site is being reactivated.

During the summer surge, a total of 82 lower acuity COVID-19 positive patients were cared for at the Porterville Alternative Care Site (PACS), located at the Porterville Developmental Center.

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Half came from Sierra View.

On Monday, hospital staff spent time identifying possible patients who could be transferred to the site, also known as PACS, knowing the option will be available again.

"This frees up beds for patients coming through the emergency room who need access to the bed that that patient is in," Dr. Hudson-Covolo explained. "So, in essence, it frees up beds and it frees up the nurse to be able to take more patients."

"Porterville Developmental Center is scheduled to open this week," said Sergy El-Morshedy of California's Emergency Medical Services Authority. "The facility will be taking in transfer patients from the region. The site currently has 123 beds in warm status and
will be staffed by CAL-MAT personnel and contracted medical staff."

Tulare County health officials were able to provide more details to Action News about the reopening.

On Monday, they say they were told that the site is open and will care for ten less severe COVID-19 patients to start.

"The transfer process is underway," Tulare County HHSA Spokesperson Carrie Monteiro said.

In the summer, Hudson-Covolo says PACS also transferred patients to Sierra View when their conditions worsened.

That could happen again.

"We have to be prepared to take those patients back in the acute care setting should they deteriorate," he said. "And that does happen occasionally."

Kaweah Delta Medical Center in Visalia did not send any patients to PACS over the summer.

"We are assessing potential transfers with our team based on the admission criteria sent to us this afternoon," Kaweah Delta officials told Action News.
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