Hospitals Besieged

As of last week, ICU at Kaiser’s San Jose hospital was full of virus patients.

In a horrifying sign of what urban areas can expect once the virus takes hold in their communities, the Kaiser Permanente official who leads its national pandemic response effort said last week that roughly half of all patients at its 242-bed San Jose Kaiser hospital had tested positive for COVID-19 or were suspected of being infected with the novel coronavirus.

So said Kaiser Permanente Executive Vice President Dr. Stephen Parodi, an infectious disease expert who dropped the bombshell in a recent interview with the Journal of the American Medical Association.

San Jose was the first Bay Area community to experience a serious community outbreak of the virus, but the East Bay and other areas are catching up quickly. A lack of available tests has kept the official count deceptively low.

“Our San Jose facility in California actually has almost half of the hospital filled either with COVID-confirmed or persons under investigation,” Parodi told Bauchner while discussing the hospital chain’s surge plans. “So we’ve literally had to revamp the hospital to make sure that we’ve got enough capacity from a personnel standpoint. Because to provide the care to these patients requires resource intensive personnel.”

Parodi told the publication that the South Bay facility’s intensive care unit maxed out with just COVID-19 patients, forcing the hospital to set up another area to care for regular ICU wards.

Parodi told the reporter that doctors are seeing more than just elderly patients sickened by the pulmonary disease. Many young COVID-19 patients are unable to breathe on their own, requiring doctors to place them on mechanical ventilators that push air into their inflamed lungs.

“I think the jury’s still out about who is actually going to end up being the cohort that ends up in the hospitals,” the Kaiser exec said. “We have people that are as young as in their 30s and 40s who have clinically deteriorated and required mechanical ventilation.”

Once a coronavirus patient ends up in the ICU, Parodi said they typically require about two weeks of mechanical ventilation. Parodi said it’s wise to prepare for an abrupt influx in patients needing intensive care. The San Jose hospital, by way of example, went from none to 10 in the span of a week. At this pace, doctors face the prospect of running out of ventilators and having to decide who gets one and who doesn’t, he went on to say.


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