San Diego Hospitals Prepare for Other Shoe to Drop

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Tents outside hospitals have become a common sight, but exterior differences pale in comparison to the differences indoors.

"At UC San Diego Health we are also expecting an increase in the number of cases," said Associate Chief Medical Officer Dr. Christopher Longhurst. "And of course we’re hoping for the best, and preparing for the worst."

Local hospital administrators know these next few weeks are critical - they're expecting a surge of new COVID-19 patients.

“In a worst case scenario we would see an exponential increase in cases needing hospitalization," said Longhurst. "And in that situation, we are prepared to flex and care for our community.”

To prepare, UC San Diego now sends new mothers home after 24 hours instead of 48, more patients now visit their doctors virtually, and fewer elective surgeries have all freed up beds.

The health system is even considering using 3-D printers to print ventilators.

“I do get a sense that people are waiting for the storm to hit," said Kaiser Permanente San Diego Assistant Medical Director Dr. Charles Miller.

He said elective surgeries are down 91 percent, and virtual care visits are up by 700 percent.

Also, a 3-D printer is churning out face shields, which keeps facemasks clean - allowing workers to reuse them.

Miller said they also have negative pressure tents - giving their hospitals even more space to treat coronavirus patients.

He said he doesn't remember anything like this since he served in the armed forces.

“I can see that just in the planning phase," said Miller. "When the surge hits, if it ever hits like it did in New York, it will feel very much like a war zone.”             

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