How the ‘pneumonia epidemic’ affected California hospital
Posted On August 9, 2021
An epidemic of pneumonia has left thousands of Californians without breathing aid, and now the hospital is grappling with how to respond.
The problem started in April, when coronavirus patients in Riverside County became sicker and more frequent.
Hospitals began to turn to automated ventilation systems that pump out oxygen, and more patients began to require respirators.
But those machines weren’t designed to handle a high volume of patients, and they became overwhelmed.
The California Department of Public Health and Environment (DPHE) is currently working on a plan to better design the systems and replace them with new, more reliable ones.
“When we start replacing our existing systems, there’s going to be a certain amount of downtime and a certain number of people that are going to have to be replaced,” said Dr. David DeBolt, DPHE’s director of respiratory services.
“So we’re trying to figure out how to make the systems better.”
Dr. DeBbolt says he expects a big improvement in air quality over the next two weeks.
He says DPHIE has identified about 200 potential sites for the new systems, which will be installed at five of the state’s 10 public hospitals.
But they’re also looking for a larger, more secure site that could house an additional 10,000 patients.
The goal is to begin installing the systems by the end of this month.
The DPHHE also is working with state and local health departments to get the new respiratory services into as many of the hospitals as possible.
“We’ve had a lot of meetings with state officials and health departments, to try to get them on board with this,” said DeBelt.
“We’re hoping that in the next couple of weeks we’ll be able to start to get some sort of approval for this from the state.”
Health officials are hoping to get approval from the State Board of Equalization and the California Department on Aging before they can begin the replacement.
Dr. Adam Bock is a respiratory specialist with the hospital where the pandemic struck.
He said they’ve been trying to improve ventilation systems since the pandemics first started.
“The system that we have, we’re working on right now is probably a third of what we had in the ’80s and ’90s,” he said.
“But we’re moving forward with it.”
Bock says they’re trying everything they can to improve the systems, including installing ventilators in each room, installing electronic monitoring systems, and installing venting systems.
He believes it’s a very effective solution to keep patients alive in the emergency room.
“It’s certainly been a major challenge, and it’s really going to take a lot more than this to actually make a difference in our patient outcomes,” he added.
Bock said they have received numerous calls from patients who have died because they weren’t able to breathe properly because of the ventilation issues.
“They were not getting oxygen to their lungs, and those are the patients that were going to die,” he explained.
“And so the idea is that we’re going to try and make sure we have the ventilator systems, that they’re being used properly, that the oxygen’s being delivered properly.”
Buckets of CO2, he said, are being taken from the room.
He added that CO2 levels in the room are dropping, but there is still plenty of COII in the air.
The CO2 is being pumped out through the vent system and into the room, and the patient’s oxygen supply is still working, but the respiratory system is not functioning properly.
“This is a situation where if we don’t have the right ventilating system in place, then if we do have a patient who’s dehydrated, then they could actually die,” Buckets said.
Bucketts is also a member of the hospital’s medical staff, and says he is working to fix the ventilation system as quickly as possible to prevent any more deaths.
Bucky is one of those patients who has been working with a respiratory therapist to try some new respiratory therapy.
He told News4 that the therapy is working well.
“I feel like it’s helping me a lot,” he told News 4.
“Theres definitely still a lot I still need to work on, but it’s definitely helped me a ton.”
Dr Buckets is now looking forward to having his patients breathe through the ventilation systems.
“There’s definitely some things that we can do to make sure they’re getting the right amount of oxygen and the right ventilation,” he concluded.