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Respiratory therapists overwhelmed with COVID patients as Placer County faces surge

Kaiser Permanente tells ABC10 nearly a third of all patients in their Roseville hospital have COVID-19.

ROSEVILLE, Calif. — Placer County says the number of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 now exceeds the pre-vaccine winter peak, and it has respiratory therapists overwhelmed in hospitals. 

Monica Arbizo, a respiratory therapist with 20 years of experience, says they are completely overwhelmed with COVID patients at the Kaiser Permanente hospital where she works in Roseville. 

She says it's come to the point where they're having to double up on beds in the ICU, but staffing has become a bigger issue. 

"It's just really sad and frustrating that you don't have the staff to take care of patients the way they need to be taken care of," Arbizo said.

Arbizo is one of many respiratory therapists at Kaiser Permanente's Roseville Medical Center working on the frontlines of the pandemic.

"We help... with putting breathing tubes in, (and) we manage the ventilators that patients are on," she said.

But lately, she says, with low staffing and demand higher than it's ever been, things have been tough.

Kaiser Permanente told ABC10 that nearly a third of all patients in the Roseville hospital have COVID-19.

"You want to try your hardest and do your best to take care of patients the way you normally do, and when you feel like you're just going there and keeping people alive until the next shift, it's not a great feeling," she said. "That's how a lot of us have been feeling lately, just overwhelmed and powerless."

The Interim Placer County Public Health Officer Dr. Rob Oldham told the county's Board of Supervisors last week that the number of patients hospitalized with COVID exceeds the winter peak and that 90% of those taking up hospital beds are unvaccinated.

"Community transmission rates are at rates that we have not seen since January at the worst peak of the pandemic," Dr. Oldham said.

He says it's causing a ripple effect across all hospital services.

"For instance, someone experiencing a stroke or a spinal cord injury right now, there's a good chance that they might be sent home rather than to a rehabilitation bed because the rehab beds are being used for acute care due to the COVID surge," he said.

Despite working through breaks and lunches on most days, Arbizo continues to show up for her community. Now, she's asking her community to show up for her.

"If you're not vaccinated, if you're on the fence, please go get vaccinated, and if you choose not to, just please, please, please wear a mask because this is… it's real," she said.

In regard to staffing concerns, ABC10 reached out to Kaiser Permanente, who provided the following statement. 

"We are supplementing our current Respiratory Therapy staff {at Kaiser Permanente Roseville} with 12 qualified traveler Respiratory Therapists, 7 of which have already arrived (including 4 today), as well as engaging nurses and other care team members as appropriate to provide support for Respiratory Therapy during this surge."

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