EL CENTRO — Following a surge in COVID-19 patients Monday and Tuesday that prompted him to divert patients from El Centro Regional Medical Center, hospital CEO Dr. Adolphe Edward was glad for some help.
The Imperial County Public Health Department, in addition to arranging with the state Emergency Medical Services Authority for an ambulance strike team to assist with patient transfers, secured the assistance of a 16-member federal medical team consisting of consisting of nurses, a respiratory therapist and physicians, to ease the strain on local resources.
In addition, the Public Health Department provided ECRMC with another seven nurses.
“We are happy the 23 individuals joined our team to take care of patients, said Edward at a joint press conference with Imperial County officials and Pioneers Memorial Healthcare District CEO Larry Lewis.
On Monday and Tuesday, the county diverted 26 ambulances carrying new COVID-19 cases from local emergency rooms to other Southern California hospitals, including Scripps in San Diego,
Instead they sent 26 new patients with COVID-19 on May 18-19 to other Southern California hospitals. PMHD’s Lewis said of the 26, nine were from PMH. Four were sent to Scripps in San Diego, while the others went to Temecula and Riverside County.
Imperial County Public Health Director Janette Angulo said diverting patients is not a closure of either hospital, and instead it is a way to ensure other medical services remain available for the community.
As of Thursday evening, 1,076 cases of COVID-19 had been confirmed in Imperial County, of which 588 were said to be still active. The county also confirmed two more COVID deaths Thursday, raising the local total to 21.
The total number of hospitalized COVID patients in the county as of Thursday’s press conference was 60, of whom 18 were in intensive care.
The California National Guard is assisting the county in setting up an 80-bed Federal Medical Station at Imperial Valley College. The facility is intended for the care of less ill patients transferred from the local hospitals. Staffing will consist of state personnel.
County Public Health Director Janette Angulo said the medical equipment for the station is arriving today, but a start date has not been determined.
Imperial County has the highest rate of hospitalizations for COVID-19 in the state, at 41.4 percent, per the health department. Next is Los Angeles County with 15.2 percent.
Angulo said county reports on COVID-19 cases reflect Imperial County residents only.
County Public Health Officer Dr. Stephen Munday urged residents to continue following health orders and social distancing guidelines over the Memorial Day weekend.
“We are looking at households, so please follow the social distance guidelines,” Munday said. “Ten is not the allowed number.”
ECRMC’s Edward said he knows people want to honor those who fought for the country this weekend.
“Please be careful of how we celebrate,” he said.