The Board of Supervisors approved a lease to convert the former Sears Tower into a facility to treat COVID-19 overflow patients, but Santa Barbara County never implemented the agreement.
During the peak of local cases and hospitalizations in July, the county regarded vacant stores as potential alternative care places for patients on the South Coast.
The lease agreement approved by the board of supervisors but never executed outlines a plan that if the county-wide hospital system becomes overwhelmed, the building will be upgraded to a 200-bed medical institution to serve patients.
Since Sears closed in January 201
Van Do-Reynoso, the director of public health, told regulators on Tuesday: “With regard to Sears as an alternative medical facility, this is not the current state directive.”
“We currently have a surge in capacity in hospitals. If we need to have a back-up care site, we will cooperate and use the resources available in the SLO back-up care site when needed, which would be a huge burden if needed.
“Currently, our hospital is quite comfortable and we hope to carry out any expansion on the four walls of patients and on campus for patient care. The problem is recruiting personnel.”
Patients in North County can be sent to an alternative care location established (but never used) by Cal Poly on the San Luis Obispo campus.
“Last year when we chose Sears as our choice, it was a different time and space during the pandemic. Given our knowledge of the treatment of hospitalized patients, it is no longer recommended or preferred by our community healthcare providers or the state The drug.” Do-Reynoso said.
Assistant Director of General Services Skip Gray told Knudshawk in an email on Tuesday that the Supervisory Board approved the lease of the property in July, but the county later decided not to implement the agreement.
“Once it is determined that the county no longer needs Sears property, we will ultimately not execute the agreement or lease,” Gray said.
He said the agreement and letter of intent to lease the property include a “cost-free holding period” until August.
Gray said: “The county government decided not to sign the lease on August 28.”
Gray said the county still agreed to use the Best Western Hotel at 2220 Bath Street as an alternative care facility near the Santa Barbara Country Hospital, but the agreement has not yet been activated.
Hospital emergency plan
Do-Reynoso said that hospitals prefer to expand production capacity in their own facilities, which is what they have to do when making emergency plans.
The hospital reported currently using 13 emergency intensive care beds for COVID-19 patients. Approximately 64% of ICU patients in this county have COVID-19.
Compared with the peak summer period, there are now 211 COVID-19 hospital patients. What worries officials now is the peak period for finding alternative places of care, which is more than twice the peak summer period.
Ron Werft, President and CEO of Cottage Health, described the work done by the Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital last week, which converted the unit into a COVID-19 treatment area and evacuated staff from other areas of the hospital.
Werft said last week that during Thanksgiving, Santa Barbara Villa Hospital had one COVID-19 isolation ward, and now there are five wards, including two ICU wards.
He added that one of the surgical intensive care units was converted into a ward for COVID-19 patients.
Public health and hospital officials say the current challenge is to staff more than just hospital beds.
Werft said: “As our demand for Santa Barbara Hospital grows, beds will no longer be a challenge, and personal protective equipment and ventilators will not be a challenge.” “The problem is the intensive care staffing.
“Although our current staffing is beyond what we usually see, the ability to identify, recruit, and expand this need is very challenging.”