Scripps CEO: Care rationing near if Californians ignore COVID-19 mitigation efforts

Hospitals in Southern California will need to start rationing care if more action isn't taken by the community to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, Chris Van Gorder, president and CEO of Scripps Health, wrote in a Dec. 28 op-ed for The San Diego Union-Tribune

As of Dec. 29, 20,642 California residents were hospitalized with COVID-19. The state's hospital bed capacity is 72,511. In San Diego County, where Scripps is headquartered, 18 intensive care unit beds were available as of Dec. 28, "not even enough to handle a single mass casualty incident," Mr. Van Gorder wrote. Out of Scripps' 173 ICU beds, seven staffed beds were available as of Dec. 28.

"This past weekend, one of our community hospitals ran out of room in their morgue. We are nearing the point where we have to make the decision of who gets care and who does not," Mr. Van Gorder wrote.

He pleaded with the San Diego and California community to adhere to mask-wearing and social distancing guidelines, especially as the New Year's Day holiday approaches. He called on residents to stay home for New Year's, wear a mask, wash their hands, and not eat or drink with people who aren't in their immediate family household.

Mr. Van Gorder's commentary comes as Kaiser Permanente hospitals in Northern California are suspending elective, non-urgent procedures through Jan. 4 as they continue to face a surge in COVID-19 hospitalizations. The Oakland, Calif.-based system announced the suspension Dec. 26, days after Chair and CEO Greg Adams said during a news conference, "We simply will not be able to keep up if the COVID surge continues to increase. We're at or near capacity everywhere."

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