Just 10.7% of Santa Barbara County Intensive Care Unit beds are available, according to the Santa Barbara County Public Health Department’s COVID-19 dashboard.
The adjusted percentage, which considers the portion of ICU patients with COVID-19, is 0%. This means that the intensive care units in the county do not have room for any more COVID-19 patients without sacrificing their ability to take on other emergencies.
An earlier version of the News-Press noted that patients were transferring from areas with 0% ICU capacity to Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital. While this is true, it should be added that the hospital routinely accepts transfers from patients in other counties.
Now, there are less transfers than usual. Cottage Health has even created a review board to look at every request for transfer.
“The transfers from outside areas have been severely restricted, so each individual request for transfer is being reviewed by a high level group within the hospital and taken in a very limited fashion,” said Dr. David Fisk, medical director for Cottage Health’s infection control program and infectious disease physician at Sansum Clinic, to the News-Press Monday.
“We are working hard to make sure we can care for the direct community members,” he said.
He said there is potential for the state to mandate transfers to areas with capacity, but that is speculation at the moment.
The regional approach taken by the state could suggest the possibility.
“The point of a regional approach is to make sure that we take care of as many Californians with those regional assets as possible,” California Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly said in an update Dec. 29.
Gov. Gavin Newsom’s Wednesday COVID-19 update was canceled “out of an abundance of caution to the Governor’s Office staff due to the events transpiring at the U.S. Capitol,” read a tweet from his office.
The California Department of Public Health revised vaccine distribution guidelines Monday, delivering all three tiers of Phase 1a concurrently. Previously, individuals in Santa Barbara County in tier three were not eligible to receive the vaccine. The change helps hospitals reduce vaccine waste.
Cottage Health keeps a list of eligible individuals to contact when a recipient cancels an appointment. Dr. Fisk did not notice any waste in the hospital apart from the appointment cancellations.
Dr. Fisk is most concerned about the staffing capability of the hospital. Although the facility has surge-capacity cots and beds, it doesn’t have the staff to treat additional patients.
“Health care systems have had to operate in a lean fashion for a long time, so there has not been a lot of padding in the system for pandemics,” he said.
“Cottage is working on other ways of getting manpower, including utilizing people with jobs in other aspects of the healthcare industry.”
On Monday, Gov. Newsom announced plans to authorize dentists to administer the COVID-19 vaccine.