The California Department of Public Health issued an order late Tuesday directing hospitals to delay non-urgent surgery in an effort to help the state’s strained health care system, but some San Diego County medical facilities had already gotten a head start.
The new order targets counties and regions that have an ICU capacity of less than 10% and since San Diego County falls under Southern California, the county must follow the order as well. However, local medical professionals had already kickstarted their halt on non-emergency surgeries early.
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In at least the last three months, more than 30 patients at UC San Diego Health facilities have had treatment delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic. While Southern California as a region grapples with 0% ICU capacity, medical professionals are focusing their efforts on those who are the sickest and need immediate care.
“Really, it comes down to a point where you can’t do a transplant because there’s actually no place to put the patients after the transplant,” said Kristin Mekeel, a UC San Diego Health surgeon. “There is no ICU bed available and that’s really the issue that we’re getting into.”
Meanwhile, Kaiser Permanente also stopped what it described as “elective, non-urgent surgeries and procedures” at 15 hospitals in Southern California until at least Jan. 10. In Imperial County, Pioneers Memorial Hospital states more than 65% of scheduled surgeries have not been done due to the pandemic, according to Chief Executive Officer Larry Lewis.
COVID-19 cases in San Diego County swelled during the holiday season as health officials pleaded with the public to stay home. Since mid-February, more than 170,000 positive COVID-19 cases were reported in the county and the death toll climbed to 1,654.
Editor's Note: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that San Diego County is not required to follow the order.