Tri-county health care providers have enough PPE for now
Levels of personal protective equipment for tri-county medical providers are holding steady as all three counties are facing manageable levels of COVID-19 spread, public health officials said.
None of the three counties have had to dip into their surge planning, and hospitals have started reaching out to their local communities to let them know that it’s still safe to access medical care during the pandemic – especially emergency care.
In Ventura County, the county with the highest number of confirmed coronavirus cases, there were only 26 people with the disease in hospital beds as of press time. Of those 26, only 10 of those cases are in intensive care units.
Because of manageable treatment levels and an outpouring of support from the community, medical supply drop off stations at both Community Memorial Hospital and the Ojai Valley Community Hospital Foundation office stopped accepting new donations after 2 p.m. April 17. That being said, while Ventura County’s Public Health Department is not requiring people use cloth face masks, Community Memorial did ask for cloth mask donations for use in outpatient clinics.
Santa Barbara County has slightly more people recovering from coronavirus in the hospital and ICU than Ventura County has, and the supply donation drop-off site at the Goleta Valley Cottage Hospital is still open, but is down to accepting donations twice a week.
San Luis Obispo County, which has the lowest level of confirmed coronavirus cases of the three counties, is also still accepting medical supplies, but it’s asking community members to reach out to the county’s PPE coordinator at EOCfirstname.lastname@example.org or to call (805) 543-2444. Unless facilities specifically ask for donations to be dropped off, the county is asking people to work with the coordinator first.
SLO County is asking people to drop off cloth masks — not for use in a clinical setting, but to protect county residents who can’t make or buy their own. These masks are being collected at sheriff’s offices and CalFire locations throughout the county, and are being handed out at food distribution sites. SLO County has also been able to secure more medical equipment in the form of additional ventilators. The county now has more than 80 ventilators, with additional ventilators expected to arrive.
As residents have been donating equipment, the counties have also received equipment from other sources, including state and national stockpiles. Not all of the equipment could be immediately used, as was the case with 175,000 masks that Marian Regional Medical Center received from the Santa Barbara County Public Health Department. While the masks worked fine, the bands that secure the mask to the person wearing it had degraded to the point where they couldn’t be used for their intended purpose.
To get those masks back to full working condition, businesses like Poor Richard’s Press and Safran Seats worked together to replace the bands. Masks are being returned to the hospital as soon as they’re being finished, and in a press release, Dignity Health Central Coast Division External Communications Manager Sara San Juan said the repair process is expected to take several weeks.
Several businesses have donated goods like food, hand sanitizer, masks (cloth and medical-grade) and comfort items like flowers to help make the health crisis easier on medical staff responding to it.
The hospital systems have also gotten creative with donations. A supply of industrial trash bags Aera Energy donated to Ventura County Medical Center were handed over to the Health Care Foundation of Ventura County’s “Gown Brigade,” which is making isolation gowns out of them.
Additionally, area businesses have been crucial in solving issues with PPE. Filter housings for 3M’s respirator mask come in many different sizes, which can make it a challenge to match mask and filter when working in a busy environment like a health care setting. Bryan and Erick Wendt, who run Camarillo-based Matter Labs, designed a universal fitting that lets respiratory teams use whatever filter they grab while treating patients.
“In Ventura County, there is not a problem big or small that we can’t collaborate on together to manage obstacles,” the Health Care Foundation for Ventura County said on a Facebook post thanking the brothers. “Bravo Ventura County!”