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'I'm in a warzone' | How overflowing hospitals are impacting non-COVID patients

Space adjustments are being made including putting two patients in what is typically a single room, according to Kaiser Permanente.

ROSEVILLE, Calif. — The U.S. is now reporting more than 150,000 new coronavirus cases a day and more than 1,400 deaths a day, overwhelming hospitals across the nation.

Those crowded hospitals and ICU's are having a real impact, even on non-COVID-19 patients.

Ron Campbell found comfort marrying his high school sweetheart Sheila only four years ago, saying they met during the "Summer of Love" in 1967. 

"I had to tell them, I said 'you know, love is a really healing emotion,'" Campbell said.

However, comfort was the first thing he didn't feel when his wife was taken to the Kaiser Permanente Roseville Medical Center for post-op care on Tuesday after having non-COVID-related surgery complications at a smaller surgery center nearby.

"The next morning, I checked on her and she said, 'I don't know what's going on, I've been moved out into the hallway and I can't get any answers,'" he said.

Kaiser Permanente says this latest COVID surge among the unvaccinated is sending more patients to its hospital.

Space adjustments are being made, including putting two patients in what is typically a single room.

"She says, 'It seems like a chaotic situation here, like I'm in a warzone.' And that's when I just went like, wow, how do I get her out of here?" he said.

Ron and Sheila are both fully vaccinated and not sick with COVID.

"I'm worried that, when she was out in the hall, that only COVID patients get attention now, that she would have been better off being a COVID patient," he said.

Kaiser couldn't address Sheila's case directly but says they are "committed to providing consistent and equitable care for every patient who needs it, regardless of vaccination status, medical condition, or any other factor."

However, this problem isn't unique to Placer County.

"We are at capacity with the hospitals, but they do have protocols in place to be able to deal with that," Dr. Olivia Kasirye, Sacramento County Public Health Officer said.

Sacramento County says their hospitals are so full that they're starting to transfer patients to other hospitals in the county that have beds available. 

"We do have several hospitals that are coordinating, so if one hospital is not able to take additional patients, then through the process, they're able to transfer those patients to another hospital," Dr. Kasirye said.

Kaiser told ABC10 in a statement that unvaccinated patients are driving the surge at the hospital, and they are still encouraging everyone to get vaccinated.

They also stressed that its facilities are open and safe for anyone and that people should not delay seeking care. A full statement from Kaiser is available below.

The current surge in COVID-19 cases across the country – accelerated by the much more contagious Delta variant – is sending more people, mainly those who are unvaccinated, to the hospital for treatment. Kaiser Permanente hospitals in the Sacramento/Roseville area are already caring for more or nearly as many patients right now as we treated at the peak of the surge last winter. In addition, we have seen an increase in Emergency Department patients and hospitalizations in order to care for people who may have postponed care earlier during the height of the pandemic. People in need of emergency care should not avoid or delay it, and we want to stress that our emergency departments, hospitals, and medical offices are open and safe places to receive care.

Unvaccinated patients are driving hospitalizations for COVID-19. Over 85% of the patients in our northern California hospitals including those in intensive care, are unvaccinated.  It is clear that vaccination against COVID-19 prevents most infections and reduces severe illness from this virus, and reduces the need for hospitalizations. Widespread vaccination is our best hope of stopping this virus and keeping our communities safe. We urge everyone to help end the pandemic by getting the safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine. Convenient appointments are available at kp.org/covidvaccine or https://myturn.ca.gov/.

We are committed to providing consistent and equitable care for every patient who needs it, regardless of vaccination status, medical condition, or any other factor. We greatly expanded our capacity last year at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, allowing us to increase treatment space, staff, and supplies to safely and expertly treat a surge of patients occurring during the pandemic. We are making space adjustments as needed to safely accommodate the volume and needs of our patients.  While we are using some single rooms for two patients, no rooms have 3 or 4 patients and patients with COVID-19 are appropriately isolated. In accordance with public health guidance and for everyone’s safety, we continue to restrict visitors to our hospitals, with some limited exceptions for labor and delivery, neonatal intensive care, and end of life care.  As part of an integrated system, we are also fortunate to be able to transfer patients when appropriate to other Kaiser Permanente Northern California hospitals in areas that are currently less impacted.

After nearly 18 months of delivering care in this pandemic, we have nothing but admiration and gratitude for our dedicated staff. Even in the face of this growing, preventable surge, they continue to work diligently to care for our members and patients every day. We recognize what a monumental effort this continues to be, and we remain committed to supporting our employees and meeting their own physical and mental health care needs. And while staffing continues to be a challenge across health care, we have hired hundreds of nurses and other care team members in recent months and continue to support our teams and their need for respite by bringing in experienced temporary staff.

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