An aerial photograph of El Centro Regional Medical Center shows the tent-based expansion of the hospital in preparation for the rapid rise in COVID-19-positive patients. Imperial County is set to rollback as new restrictions are implemented starting Sunday, Dec. 6, for a minimum of three weeks to lessen the strain on hospitals, particularly intensive-care units, in Southern California due to COVID. | COURTESY PHOTO

El Centro ICU Capacity to Increase Within Days Amid COVID Crush

El Centro Regional Medical Center has been eerily accurate in its projection of the number of COVID patients it expects will arrive through its emergency department during this surge, and on Monday, Dec. 7, there were 77 patients with coronavirus admitted.

Adolphe Edward, chief executive officer of El Centro Regional Medical Center, signs off after a short Facebook Live update about COVID-positive patient admissions and intensive-care unit capacity on Monday morning, Dec. 7. | VIDEO SCREEN CAPTURE

That’s just three off what chief administrator Adolphe Edward predicted would be around 80 patients over the weekend when he spoke during a press conference on Thursday, Dec. 3. Likewise, he said hospital projections were that there would be 65 COVID patients admitted by Friday, Dec. 4, and the actual number was 64.

As COVID hospitalizations rise throughout Southern California and the cumulative intensive-care unit capacity for the 11-county region, of which Imperial is part, hovers just above 10 percent as of Sunday, Dec. 6, El Centro Regional reported Monday that there are two ICU beds available, but capacity will be expanding within days.

“Our numbers are skyrocketing, ICU numbers are skyrocketing, and we’re working to build capacity,” Edward said during a Facebook Live update on Monday morning.

While the numbers are disappointing, he said, the good news is that the hospital has been given approval from the California Department of Public Health to adjust staffing ratios that will enable the ICU to expand capacity and that additional staffing is on the way in the next two days.

“What you need to know is that will allow us to care for more patients at home in the Valley. And what a great news story this is. We will keep you and the public up to date on our capacity (with) our local Facebook Live and what we publish as capacity,” Edward wrote in a follow-up email regarding the ratios.

With a 50-bed medical-surgical wing expansion and other expanded tent-based facilities in the north campus parking lot, ECRMC has the physical ability to expand its number of beds, but staffing has been the concern for not just El Centro but Pioneers Memorial Hospital in Brawley.

Daily census information was not available for Pioneers in Brawley, which recently told this newspaper it would no longer provide daily COVID information to the media.

The most recent cumulative data for Imperial County hospitals is from Sunday, Dec. 6. The Imperial County Public Health Department’s COVID Surveillance Dashboard was reporting that there were 28 COVID patients in local ICU beds — and zero ICU bed available — and a total of 98 COVID patients admitted on Sunday.

Several temporary restrictions for Imperial County and the 10 other Southern California region counties went into effect at midnight Sunday, Dec. 6, to try to minimize the impact of COVID hospitalizations as cumulative ICU capacity dipped below the regional threshold of 15 percent that triggered the new stay-at-home measures. For more information on the closures, read our story here.

Meanwhile, Edward said during his Dec. 7 update that there had been some erroneous reporting over the weekend claiming ECRMC was in violation of state mandates regarding staffing levels, but he said that is not true and the report did not consider the behind-the-scenes discussions occurring between El Centro officials and the state.

“The last thing we need is people pushing out bad info as we struggle to save lives. Today’s mission is to keep all hands on deck to work the services the community needs. Not to cater to idiots who have a mission to destroy the hospitals. We are not in violation of any state mandates. Sad, but I am disappointed in these organizations,” Edward wrote via email.

BY THE NUMBERS, DEC. 7

Imperial County had 1,139 active COVID-positive cases and 360 deaths, with a positivity rate of 27.06 percent and 57.1 new cases per day per 100,000 residents (unadjusted), as of 10 a.m. Monday.

There has now been a total of 17,084 positive cases and 15,585 recoveries, according to the dashboard.

Additionally, there have been a total of 94,291 tests administered in Imperial County since the start of the pandemic.

An aerial photograph of El Centro Regional Medical Center shows the tent-based expansion of the hospital in preparation for the rapid rise in COVID-19-positive patients. Imperial County is set to rollback as new restrictions are implemented starting Sunday, Dec. 6, for a minimum of three weeks to lessen the strain on hospitals, particularly intensive-care units, in Southern California due to COVID. | COURTESY PHOTO
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