STANISLAUS COUNTY (CBS13) – According to the state, the number of available hospital beds is one of the most important indicators of our COVID-19 readiness. But just because beds are physically available, that doesn’t mean patients can use them.
Gov. Gavin Newsom provides regular updates during his weekly news conferences on the number of available hospital beds. But as he pointed out Thursday, that may not paint the full picture.
Communities vary, large and small, with different resources. For instance, as Stanislaus county saw their largest daily surge in coronavirus cases Thursday, its online dashboard indicated 40% of the county’s hospital beds were still available.
But supervisors said they learned that local hospitals don’t currently have enough staff to actually use all the available beds.
“It’s not panic time, but it’s definitely concerning,” Supervisor Terry Withrow said.
Withrow explained that hospitals furloughed staff as patient numbers dropped between March through May. But as numbers are returning to normal, combined with a COVID-19 influx, hospitals have more beds than staff to man them.
Doctors medical center tells CBS13, “We are managing our capacity,” but did not say how long it would take to fully staff up.
And other hospital executives – who asked not be named – tell us other counties could be in the same position.
State data shows more than 73,000 total hospital beds with around 7,000 filled. But hospitals only have to report the total number of licensed beds.
It’s not clear how many of those beds are currently staffed or how long it would take to staff them. And many hospitals use the same staffing agencies.
So if there were a sudden influx, you could have hospitals competing for the same staff.
The state tells CBS13:
“Hospitals, as part of their surge plans, are expected to have appropriate staffing resources to fully utilize all of their bed capacity. If there is a shortage of staff at any hospital, the hospital can request staff through California’s incident command structure.”
But the discovery that available beds might not actually available has some questioning if we’re asking the right questions.
Industry sources tell us that instead of just reporting the total number of licensed beds the state should require hospitals to report the total number of staffed beds, the time it would take to staff up and where each facility plans to get that staff.
At last check, the state had cleared at least 5,000 health corp volunteers to be deployed as needed. So far, they’ve primarily been deployed to skilled nursing facilities.