The impact of novel coronavirus on Scripps Mercy Hospital Chula Vista is being felt with increasing intensity as significant numbers as the number of new cases steadily increases due, at least in part, to the facility’s proximity to Baja California where COVID-19 is straining medical resources.
On a recent afternoon the hospital, its main COVID unit already full, the call came down to clear the way for a patient, already on high-flow oxygen treatment, who needed to be admitted to the intensive care unit and placed on a mechanical ventilator due to severe and worsening respiratory distress.
Quickly helping each other slip into protective equipment, a team of intensivists quickly sedated the patient before inserting a breathing tube and connecting it to the ventilators.
It is moments like these, said Dr. Juan Tovar, an emergency medicine specialist and operations executive at Scripps Chula Vista, that show medicine is truly a team effort.
From making sure that the hospital’s hallways were clear to backing each other up inside the patient’s room, communication, he said, is a supremely-important weapon in the COVID-19 fight.
“One of the biggest things that we’ve learned in this environment is that we need constant communication, both with the intensive care unit, and with our sister facility up in San Diego,” Tovar said. “Everybody needs to know what’s coming.”
As hospitals closest to the border start to see their COVID units fill, intensive care nurse manager Terry Taylor said the focus on the mechanics of bed space management are becoming more immediate. A constant eye must be kept on the hosptial’s 26-bed general COVID unit which can quickly see patients go from stable to critical.
“If half of them get sick, I’m suddenly full in the ICU,” she said. “That’s the thing I fear every day on the floor.”
But there are plenty of bright spots.
On Thursday, the hospital’s intensive care unit celebrated releasing its first two COVID patients, taking them off ventilators and sending them off the ward with music and applause.