Examining ICU Capacity: CEO of Bakersfield Memorial Hospital says biggest concern is lack of nurses

Posted at 5:56 PM, Dec 07, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-07 21:08:22-05

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — California's regional stay-at-home order officially took effect in Kern County this weekend.

The San Joaquin Valley's ICU capacity fell under the 15% threshold and now many businesses in the county were forced to close. Outdoor dining, hair salons, and barbershops shutdown once again.

But what does the county's ICU bed capacity look like? 23ABC's Alex Bell has more details on where Dignity Health says their three hospitals are at when it comes to ICU bed capacity.

On Monday Dignity Health had its first weekly meetings of many to come and CEO Ken Keller led the meeting to break down the specifics of where Memorial and Mercy hospitals are at in terms of ICU capacity. The southwest campus is maxed out and the downtown location is also getting close to reaching their capacity as well.

According to Keller, the group has 65 ICU beds in total, but only 17 of those are currently available. Keller did emphasize those numbers change daily based on the situation at the time and that not all of the ICU beds are COVID-positive patients.
"Between Mercy, Memorial hospitals we have about 65 ICU beds, and right now we've got about 17 or so that are open and available. That number changes throughout the course of the day based on how patients are doing," explained Keller.

When asked if that was a cause for concern, Keller responded: "It's cause for us to continue to manage and make sure we continue to do a good job in managing those patients, and caring for those patients. It's also cause for us to continue to connect with the community at large to reinforce those safe practices that we constantly hear about."
Keller said that the hospitals have been preparing for the surge and they have plans in place to expand their capacity by an additional 20-25-percent. But the bigger concern is a lack of nurses.

"We have the ability to 'get creative' as locations to care for patients that need ICU level care. One of the things we can't do is very quickly manufacture additional nurses. And so the staffing plan, to staff those ICU beds, is extremely important for us too."

Finally, when asked about a possible vaccine in California, Keller said "based on what we are hearing from the governor if all goes well in the next few days we should have it I am going to say next week."

The San Joaquin Valley Region will remain under the stay-at-home ordinance for the next three weeks and it will only be lifted if the ICU capacity meetings the 15 percent requirement.