Riverside County hospitals overflowing with COVID-19 patients

Hospitals in Riverside County are under a crisis, overflowing with record-breaking numbers of COVID-19 patients, forcing them to re-purpose parts of buildings never before used for patient care.

"We have an old cafeteria dining area that we have converted - we’ve converted it to a patient care space and we have 11 beds in there right now," said Annette Greenwood, Chief Nursing Officer at Riverside Community Hospital. "Every single spot that can be used for patient care is basically going to be used. That includes hallways and spaces that were previously offices...we have an education complex that we could use potentially for...walking type of patients." 

Greenwood said she has never seen such crippling crowding in her 33 years as a nurse. "This tops it all," she said. 

The hospital had help from the California National Guard, which deployed nine members of its Medical Corps on December 22 to help in the ER. They arrived from arrived over the state, including San Diego, Fresno, and San Luis Obispo. But the hospital is still understaffed, and the California National Guard members leave Wednesday. 

Greenwood believes there’s a direct link to holiday gatherings and the unexpected loss of loved ones. 

"They didn't think much of it, they were going to get together at Thanksgiving - no big deal, right? Eat my turkey and have fun. And now, they've lost someone. And so I just beg everybody - that's the scenario that we're seeing here at the hospital and I really need for people to take this seriously," she said. 

Healthcare workers are also experiencing both a physical and emotional toll. 

"They're crying at the end of their shift because they've lost patients that they care about they've had to, you know, be the person that held her hand as they went into eternity, because no one else can be there, they've had to face time they've had to sing a song to them or pray with them."

Hospitals all over Riverside County are strained as they scramble to keep up with the current surge. 

The following is from a release, which urged people to follow safety guidelines to stop the spread of COVID-19:

  • Kaiser Permanente Riverside Medical Center and Moreno Valley Medical Center are currently caring for a combined 211 COVID-19 patients, and our ICUs are above capacity.  To meet the demand, we have activated surge plans to convert other areas in the hospitals into ICU beds, which enables our teams to care for more critically ill patients than can be served in our ICUs. We are doing so by converting conference rooms, waiting rooms and other areas of the hospitals into patient care areas. Non-emergent surgeries are being postponed, and surgery staff and pre- and post-operative areas are now redeployed and operating as inpatient hospital units.
  • Riverside Community Hospital is currently caring for 214 COVID-19 patients, the most it has seen since the pandemic began, and has no room in the ICU. The California National Guard has deployed 9 members of its Medical Corps to help the hospital’s Emergency Department and 6 nurses to help the ICU, but the hospital remains short staffed. Today, the hospital opened its former cafeteria, which was converted this past weekend as alternative care space, to handle the surge of patients who are waiting in the Emergency Department for hospital beds to open up. 
  • Riverside University Health System-Medical Center & Clinics The current surge of COVID-19 patients needing medical services is overwhelming the healthcare system in Riverside County, including Riverside University Health System – Medical Center. We are implementing our surge plans and are continuing to care for more patients every day. With our ICU beds above capacity and our hospital filling up, we are urging the community to please do their part and follow all of the recommended safety guidelines: wear a face covering, practice physical distancing, frequently wash your hand and stay home as much as possible. Having the support of the community and their help with adhering to these measures is the only way that we can help stop the spread of this disease.

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