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Most COVID-19 hospitalizations at Lompoc Valley Medical Center are prison inmates

Lompoc Hospital PPE.jpg
Posted at 7:10 PM, Apr 17, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-17 22:19:00-04

Lompoc is one of the hardest-hit areas for COVID-19 in Santa Barbara County, but most of the hospitalizations are not community members.

At Lompoc Valley Medical Center, it's all hands on deck every day for treating COVID-19 patients, the majority of whom are from the Federal Prison Complex in Lompoc.

To minimize exposure to patients and health care workers, the hospital created a COVID-19 wing in its medical surgical unit to provide at least 10 more beds and also retrofitted a large physical therapy area if more are needed.

Steve Popkin, CEO of Lompoc Valley Medical Center, said a number of medical professionals volunteered to help outside their normal field of care.

“The number of surgeries are way down. Our nurses in our surgeries are cross-training and have cross-trained to our medical department to provide care and support to those COVID-19 patients,” Popkin said.

He said inpatients from the community are generally low.

“The key issue is not so much how many are positive, but how many were ill enough to need hospitalization and that number is relatively low,” said Popskin.

Not counting the Federal Prison, there are at least 62 Lompoc-area residents that have tested positive.

Of the three that were hospitalized, one person remains.

As of last week, at least 12 inmates were being treated at Lompoc Valley Medical Center.

Some are transferred to Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital depending on the treatments needed.

Popkin said recently there have been fewer inmate hospitalizations despite the number of cases rising, that number is now up to 80.

So far, no medical staff at the hospital have tested positive for COVID-19, but Popkin said some are self-quarantining as they may have some symptoms or have been exposed elsewhere.

As far as PPE, the hospital says they are set with N95 masks and isolation gowns for the next two months, but the need for more could change.

The hospital also has two triage tents outside the emergency room and urgent care, which are set up to separate people who are experiencing symptoms or are suspected to have the coronavirus.