Santa Barbara Co. hospitals prepare for crisis care as COVID-19 hospitalizations rise

Posted at 6:52 PM, Jan 06, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-07 02:06:30-05

Santa Barbara County hospitals are preparing for crisis care as COVID-19 hospitalizations continue to break records.

According to the Santa Barbara County Public Health Department, local hospitals are running out of staffed ICU beds

At Marian Regional Medical Center in Santa Maria, health officials say they haven't reached that point but can expect to soon if numbers continue to climb.

"We have not reached our maximum capacity at Marian but certainly that can change very, very quickly depending upon what we see each and every day and how these patients' needs are met,” said Chief Medical Officer Dr. Scott Robertson.

The county is now starting to see the effects of COVID-19 cases that spread over the holiday season due to travel and gatherings and health officials say they expect to see even more cases in the coming weeks.

"In light of our current situation, I am at a loss. I honestly don't know what to say anymore,” Santa Barbara County Public Health Officer Dr. Henning Ansorg said on Tuesday.

Dr. Robertson says, as they prepare for this surge by opening spaces like the old Marian hospital, the problem isn't necessarily the lack of space.

"It's really about staffing, finding the qualifying personal, the critical care nurses, the respiratory technician's teams that can help manage these patients in the environment in which they need to be managed,” Robertson said.

He adds that in order to meet staffing requirements, their efforts to find out-of-the-area staff are important.

“This is about asking folks to work overtime, it's about trying to find out-of-the-area staff who can come in and help out but that's very challenging given the broad prevalence across the U.S. of COVID-19,” Dr. Robertson said.

As they continue to admit new patients at Marian Regional, the rate at which they’re able to discharge patients is slowing, which is ultimately impacting ICUs.

Dr. Robertson says that while resources are stretched very thin, the type of care patients receive will not change.

"We are still able to provide the type of care that we would expect to provide should any of us be at the hospital but we are not far from the breaking point and it's important for the public to understand that this is a critical time,” he said.

Health officials at Marian said all Dignity Health employees have vaccine availability but add this isn't a time to let your guard down as the general public still doesn't have access to the COVID-19 vaccine.