WEST HOLLYWOOD, Calif. – For the last few weeks, Dr. Jeff Smith has been in a race against the clock.
The chief operating officer at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Dr. Smith and his team have had to adapt to a new normal — a steady flow of COVID-19 patients showing up at their ER.
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“We are seeing dozens of patients a day who are being evaluated, a number of those are being hospitalized and, increasingly, we’re seeing patients test positive,” Dr. Smith told Spectrum News 1.
Among the nation’s top ranked hospitals, Cedars-Sinai sits in the middle of West Hollywood, one of the hardest hit areas in the city. So far, morale among the staff has been good. But he knows dark days are ahead.
“At this time, we’re talking on the order of a couple of dozen patients who have tested positive, a number who are doing quite well, some requiring critical care,“ he said.
But hospitals are bracing for a surge in critical patients they know is coming. It could be days or weeks, no one really knows. Cedars set up tents in the parking garage, just to keep COVID-19 patients separate from other patients.
“We have a number of teams set up across the hospital that are looking at all aspects of what we need to do to be ready, making sure we have enough rooms, making sure we have enough equipment to protect our patients, to protect our staff and make sure we have the most up to date medical protocols so that we are ready,” Dr. Smith said.
For now, the numbers are relatively low. But knowing what's coming, the hospital has cleared over 200 beds for the onslaught of patients.
“It is a constant challenge and we’re working hard on it every day,” Dr. Smith said.
While New York is reporting a shortage of ventilators, equipment that helps COVID-19 patients breathe, Cedars doesn’t have that problem. At least not yet. But Personal Protective Equipment, or PPE, that’s a different story. Masks and gowns are in short supply.
But even that may resolve soon.
“We are getting indications that many of these masks which were actually manufactured in China, which was initially the most affected by this disease, many of these factories are now coming back online,” Dr. Smith said.
Dr. Smith says despite his cautious optimism, there are moments of fear and doubt.
“At the end of the day, when the business is over and I have a chance to be by myself, naturally I think some of those thoughts," he said. "I go back to the science, I go back to my training and receive the emotional support from my wife and my family that allows me to go on."