By Keith Hobbs
CEO, USC Verdugo Hills Hospital
We are most definitely seeing a spike in COVID-19 cases locally, regionally and nationally — the news is real. We all heard the public health warnings before Thanksgiving; the combination of colder weather, families wanting to gather for the holidays and students returning home from college would likely result in increased exposure and transmission.
At USC Verdugo Hills Hospital we are already seeing an increase in COVID-19 cases in our Emergency Room and among our admitted patient population, and these are not even people who were exposed due to Thanksgiving gatherings. The incubation period of the virus means that surge is still likely a week away.
As I communicated this past spring, USC-VHH stands ready to care for our community. These past nine months have taught us so much about how COVID-19 infects, spreads and responds to treatment. What was once a “novel” coronavirus is no longer so unknown. Informed by this increased knowledge and experience, we adapted and improved our hospital protocols for isolation, testing, masking and visitation, and are prepared to care safely and expertly for ALL members of our community who may need us — those with COVID-19 and those with other acute and chronic health issues as well.
We developed a multi-phase plan that allows for a swift increase in isolated units of COVID-19 patients, an increase in ICU beds and seamless transfer to Keck Hospital of USC for a higher level of care for the most critical patients. Our inventory of and supply chain for personal protective equipment is secure and reliable. Perhaps most significantly, the medical community has developed more informed treatment plans for COVID-19. This includes a better understanding of how to oxygenate COVID-19 patients, the most effective use of medications like remdesivir and steroid treatments, as well as medical advances that are on the very near horizon for widespread use like the monoclonal antibody therapy administered to President Trump. There are several promising vaccines that could soon be approved by the Food and Drug Administration.
Our hospital and the medical community at large have worked hard these many months to end this pandemic. But what can you do?
You’ve heard it all before, but the answer remains the same. Masking. Distancing. Sanitizing. It is simple — yet often difficult. Difficult because we are all weary. We are all tired of not being able to physically be with our friends and loved ones. We are done with COVID-19. But as I tell my staff at the hospital, COVID-19 is not done with us. If each and every one of us could truly dig deep and continue with these simple things, we could turn this trend around before the end of the year.
If you believe you or members of your family have been exposed to someone with COVID-19, call your health-care provider to walk you through next steps. Reference public health guidance that can be found at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website or locally through the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health. Most importantly, quarantine yourself (utilizing the public health guidelines) until you can be tested. And of course, our Emergency Department is always open and ready to help if you are experiencing concerning symptoms.
Please remember that we are here to care for our community; but during a public health crisis of this magnitude, we really rely on our community to care for one another. The decisions you make can help keep us and our resources from becoming overwhelmed.
Keith Hobbs is CEO of USC Verdugo Hills Hospital.
By Alice Issai
President, Adventist Health Glendale
This year has brought so many challenges — to our organization, our community and each of us individually. Now, as we embark on a holiday season during a global pandemic, my thoughts immediately turn to our front-line workers and the many community members for whom comfort and joy will be difficult to find.
As with other medical centers, Adventist Health Glendale is seeing a steady climb in the number of patients with COVID-19. State and county officials, fearful of mass spreading, have curtailed activities, instituted curfews and pleaded with the public to heed public health experts’ calls to wear your mask, watch your distance and wash your hands — still the best line of defense against contracting the coronavirus.
And yet, true to the season’s essence, there is hope.
At least two vaccines are near approval for distribution, both with efficacy above 95%. These vaccines offer tremendous promise and still others are in late-stage testing that could bolster the available supply. Adventist Health Glendale is already prepared to receive these vaccines and serve as a center for community distribution. When the vaccines are in place and public health officials announce distribution priorities, we will do outreach to the community to begin administering the vaccines.
At the same time, we are prepared for the surge of COVID patients we are seeing today. Early in the pandemic, we formed a committee comprising pulmonologists, immunologists, intensivists, emergency medicine, pharmacy and other experts to review our COVID patients’ conditions and treatment plans. We secured ample supplies of protective equipment to safeguard our care providers. We acquired additional equipment and set up unoccupied areas of the hospital so that we could quickly expand to meet any demands.
To date, we have had no trouble meeting that demand; the next couple of weeks as people return from Thanksgiving gatherings will be telling, but I remain confident in our capacity to care for the most critical patients here. But please help us by adhering to Centers for Disease Control guidelines for masking, washing hands and socially distancing.
I’m also confident that we are safe and ready to receive patients who are not touched by COVID. We have isolated our COVID treatment areas, which enables us to remain open to ongoing and preventive care in other areas of the hospital. Our community urgent care clinics remain open and our emergency room has processes in place to receive both COVID and non-COVID patients safely. I cannot stress this enough: If you have a medical need, please do not delay seeking care.
Finally, I want to publicly thank our hospital heroes: physicians, nurses, respiratory therapists, pharmacists and other caregivers as well as the many hundreds of people who support nonclinical work, including our housekeepers, engineers, food service associates, transporters and so many more. This entire team has been working tirelessly since February. I invite you to take a moment and consider the many families whose loved ones are with them today due to the efforts of our providers. Health, wholeness and hope are incredible gifts to give, and I know those patients and their families are grateful to have these gifts delivered by our incredible team.
Please remain vigilant with masking, washing hands and socially distancing through the holiday season. With your help, 2021 will truly be a happy new year.
Alice Issai is president of Adventist Health Glendale.
By Jill Welton
President, Dignity Health-Glendale Memorial Hospital
These are truly unprecedented times. Our nurses, physicians and other health-care workers train and drill for epidemic and pandemic responses throughout their careers. Yet we have never seen anything like COVID-19. Regardless of how relentless this virus has been, our staff suits up and shows up every day to continue to provide high-quality, compassionate care to those in need.
Everyone is experiencing some level of “pandemic fatigue.” Those of us in health care have a special responsibility and a unique opportunity to lead in this time of uncertainty. We will stay true to our values and strive to do the right thing for our staff, physicians, patients and community to get through this crisis — together.
We are confident that our hospital is well prepared to navigate this next wave. We also need everyone in the community to do their part to help slow the spread of this virus. Over the course of the last nine months, we have learned a great deal about the treatment, management and prevention of COVID-19. So many things have changed about this virus, except how you contract it. Everyone should wear a face mask properly — over your nose and mouth. All of us should wash our hands often or use sanitizer. We need to continue maintaining a social distance of at least 6 feet from people outside your household, and households should NOT mix.
This is especially true for the upcoming holidays. I encourage everyone to observe any restrictions or guidelines put in place by public health officials. Regardless of how you choose to celebrate the holidays, please practice safe behaviors. If you are sick, stay home. Those who have tested positive for COVID-19, or have been directly exposed to someone who has recently tested positive for the virus, should not participate in group activities. We are anxious about December and January. As the weather gets colder, people gather indoors and flu season is typically at its worst. Please get your flu vaccine. You can contract COVID-19 and flu at the same time.
In addition to precautions you can take to protect yourself and your loved ones, we also want you to know that we are here when you need us. If you or a loved one are experiencing a heart attack, stroke or other emergencies, do not delay the care you need. Our hospitals are safe places to seek care.
Everyone entering our hospital is screened for symptoms of COVID-19 and asked to wear a mask while on campus. We have secured an extensive inventory of personal protective equipment and provided appropriate PPE to our health-care workers. We have adopted even more stringent cleaning and sanitizing processes. We have limited visitors to specific areas of the hospital and restricted visitors from COVID-19 units.
Glendale Memorial is following the progress of vaccine development for COVID-19 and we are proactively preparing to receive and distribute a vaccine to our health-care workers whenever it becomes available. Distribution plans for a COVID-19 vaccine will be determined by the Food and Drug Administration, Centers for Disease Control and state and local health departments — including how and when we will receive the vaccine, how many doses will be available, and who should receive the first doses.
As the president of Dignity Health-Glendale Memorial Hospital and Health Center, my number one priority is to ensure the safety of everyone that enters our facility — from our staff and physicians to our patients and their loved ones. We remain vigilant in protecting our communities by identifying, isolating and treating people with COVID-19 symptoms who come to us for care.
Wishing everyone a safe and happy holiday.
Jill Welton is president of Dignity Health-Glendale Memorial Hospital and Health Center.