VENTURA COUNTY, Calif. -- As numbers continue to rise in Ventura County, some hospitals are now adding additional storage for bodies.
“I can only imagine that we will not be slowing down anytime soon,” said Dr. Raj Bhatia, who is the director of critical care at St. Johns Regional Medical Center in Oxnard.
Health experts throughout Ventura County are gearing up for even more COVID cases.
“We are only 11 days out of the New Year, and 17 days out from Christmas,” said Dr. Todd Flosi, who is the Chief Medical Officer at Ventura County Medical Center in Ventura. “There is still a chance we are gong to see an increased number of patients come into the ERs and needing in patient care.”
On Friday alone, the county announced 24 COVID-19 related deaths. Ventura County Medical Center doctors said back up plans are now being implemented in case the morgue runs out of space.
“We actually added extra storage space just in case we start to have more bodies that are unable to move off to a funeral home or a mortuary,” said Flosi. “We are planning for the possibility that we will need some overflow space.”
VCMC and Santa Paula hospital share a morgue that fits seven bodies, but with extra storage it could potentially hold 12 to 36 more. Health care workers there say they have not had to use it just yet. St. John's Regional Medical Center has also not had to rely on extra storage space yet, but bed capacity inside the hospital is running extremely low.
“The ICUs are busy,” said Bhatia. “We are a 20 bed ICU and we have 20 patients. As of right now I know we have patients from the ICU that are holding in the ER, and the ICU is full. We keep making beds for them as patients get stable they get transferred to a lower level of care and then we are able to bring the patients from the ER up to ICU.”
It's a similar situation in all eight Ventura County hospitals. St. John's brought in traveling nurses to help with staffing issues, meantime VCMC is utilizing its old hospital space.
“We recently built a new tower and opened it in 2018 and with that we have the only Vintage hospital which still exists so we have been able to move into that space to take care of some of the patients that we are seeing with this surge of COVID,” said Flosi. "We now have 15 patients housed in that overflow of space and we are looking to expand that once we have more nursing and other staff available.”