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Full hospitals gear up for bigger surge

Riverside hospitals are using resourceful means to meet the last two months’ steady increase of COVID-19 patients and brace for more impact as January sees the results of December’s celebrations.

Jackie Van Blaricum, CEO of Riverside Community Hospital, said her staff is stretched as they treat the highest number of COVID-19 patients of the county’s 17 hospitals. “Our teams are extremely tired and exhausted but resilient. We’ve seen the numbers increase each week,” she said. They expect to see a 50 percent increase in their hospital’s cases by January 18

“We’ve been creative with space unlike I’ve ever seen before,” she said. The hospital repurposed an old cafeteria where there is room for 10 patients. An unfinished empty wing of the hospital is being turned into a patient care unit. The CEO said the necessary privacy fixtures and restrooms were built in time to prepare for the coming months.

The county has seen just over 198,000 total COVID-19 cases, more than 2,096 deaths and more than 1,600 hospitalizations. Jose Arballo, public information specialist for Riverside County Department of Public Health, said the county is likely to see a continued rise in each of these areas. He said each hospital has a desperate need for more doctors, nurses and nursing support staff.

Van Blaricum said RCH formally requests assistance each week, but she knows they are not alone in their need. “I think the State is doing everything they can but we’re at a national shortage,” she said.