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Local hospital chiefs say COVID-19 pandemic is worse than portrayed

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Posted at 5:03 PM, Dec 17, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-17 20:44:49-05

San Luis Obispo County hospital chiefs are sounding the alarm that the COVID-19 pandemic has been gravely underestimated on the Central Coast.

Some local ICUs have no available beds this week, according to French Hospital Medical Center's ICU Director Dr. Mark Soll. He, along with other hospital chiefs, wants the community to know that the dramatic increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations and ICU admissions are straining our hospitals.

"Things have been really escalating at the hospitals and we're starting to have to scramble for beds to put patients into," Dr. Soll said.

He explained that all 11 ICU beds at his hospital are full, with six COVID-19 patients and five others. Staffing is also getting stretched very thin.

"You see all these people complaining about us being lumped in with Southern California with their 85% occupancy. Well, we're in just as bad of shape if not worse shape than much of Southern California," Soll said.

He says our region is extremely vulnerable, adding the Central Coast already has half the number of hospital beds than most of the country, it's already a busy time of year due in part to the flu and other respiratory illnesses, and we're in a pandemic.

He adds that the governor's stay-at-home mandate is needed for our area.

"A lot of people have been railing against that as being unnecessary on the Central Coast because we're in such good shape. Well, they don't know what they're talking about. We're not in good shape," Soll said.

He says at French Hospital they're making plans for an auxiliary ICU for COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 patients. The issue with that he says, however, is there's not enough staff to care for the patients.

"You can only ask for people to work at 150 percent for so long and right now we're okay and everybody is willing and able to do that but at some point, things break," Soll said.