A look inside hospitals stretched thin during the holidays

Providence Holy Cross Hospital is the last place Humberto Perez wanted to be for Christmas. Says the 39-year-old construction worker, "It’s sad because you're not with your family. You’re missing them and you obviously want to be with them."

Perez got COVID-19 at work. So did his wife and son recovering at home. Perez is still in a bed at Providence Holy Cross.

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Usually, hospitals try to dress up for Christmas with tinsel, decorations and so forth, but not this year. Dr. Marwa Kilani who heads up the Palliative Care Department says, "Usually this lobby area is bustling with families and little kids running around with lots of good spirit and lots of cheer. We have a piano over here. That isn’t being used." No songs like "I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas" on the piano, and no staff singing "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas." 

Erik Waxler is the Chief Executive for Providence in Southern California. He says, "Christmas at Providence Hospitals across Southern California is quite difficult. we’re very worried about our communities, our patients, and keeping them safe and healthy."

Bill Caswell is the Senior Vice President of Operations and Chief Operations Officer for Kaiser Permanente in Southern California. He says, "In the past, we’ve had carolers and ornaments and decorations and Santa Claus and for the safety of our staff and patients we’re not celebrating it that way this year."

Caswell added that they do try to help their patients communicate with their families. He says, "We do bring in iPads so they can stay connected with their loved ones for those wonderful words or maybe a carol or two sung, but these are different days."

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At UCI Medical Center in the City of Orange, the staff is being treated to goodies from a treat cart and a chance to spin a digital wheel for a gift card. Also, their cooks are whipping up special meals for their doctors, nurses, and others in the hospital’s 4900-member medical army.

CEO Chad Lefteris says they are doing what they can to help during the holidays including special meals. Lefteris says, "These are meals designed by our in-house culinary team. You wouldn’t believe - this is not hospital food like you think of. These are culinary trained chefs, and a special meal for our patients. Those that can enjoy that. We have some variations for those that have dietary restrictions."

COVID-19 Patient Humberto Perez

In the end, Christmas is, sadly, just another day in the hospitals, and with what’s going on even seasoned execs get choked up. Providence’s Erik Waxler says, "This is the holiday season we expect people to be well and celebrating. What we don’t want is our community and our caregivers at risk."

Meanwhile, Humberto Perez is on the mend even though he is in the hospital. From his bed, hooked up to oxygen, he says, "Merry Christmas to all and just take care of yourselves, cause this is not a game."

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