Hospital CEO prepares for surge in COVID-19 ICU cases

SAN DIEGO (KUSI) – The COVID-19 curve is not flattening in San Diego County. Amid news that the county on Wednesday had its largest single day increase in hospitalizations, health systems across the region are getting ready for a surge in patients over the next few weeks.

Scripps Health CEO Chris Van Gorder said he is hiring more staff to work in the Intensive Care Units and also trying to anticipate where he can find room for additional beds.

The ICU beds in the Scripps system are currently at 97 percent capacity, with almost 40 percent of the beds occupied by COVID-19 patients.

In recent weeks, Van Gorder said his system has been treating more coronavirus patients. In the initial stages of the outbreak in March and April, large numbers of cases were from the South Bay.

But in the last week, he said the Scripps hospitals are getting more patients from North County. The patients coming for treatment are also younger. He mentioned a man in his 40’s who contracted covid-19 and died of complications from a brain bleed.

The Scripps CEO said he had asked county leaders to take a slower approach to reopening the economy.

In Van Gorder’s view, the recent surge in community outbreaks is one sign that we may be going much too quickly, especially if people don’t take the necessary precautions to stop the spread of the virus.

“When the Board of Supervisors opened testimony on this, Scripps and Sharp both testified that we should go slower because we looked at the projections and we both have run our own projections and we knew absolutely that if we opened up too fast, right, you know human behavior after you’ve been cooped up for a long time is ‘I want to get out, I want to see my friends, I want to party again, I want to go to a restaurant, I don’t want to wear those stupid masks,’ well, we knew that was going to happen and we’re starting to see the impact of that right now,” Van Gorder said.

He said he would recommend that we open up the economy but with caution, moving slowly to make sure that we can manage the virus without making more people sick.

“I think we ought to be absolutely fierce on making people wear their masks, making people social distance and following those guidelines. Internationally, we have proven we can get our arms around COVID, if we do just those steps,” Van Gorder said.

Citing the dramatic rise in positive tests over the last few weeks, and the more recent increase in hospitalizations, Van Gorder said “There are going to be people who die as a result of it.”

Categories: Coronavirus, Local San Diego News