County spends $4.5 million to add ICU beds

Sequoia Hospital in Redwood City. Photo by Brandt Design Group, which worked on the 2015 rebuild of the facility.
Sequoia Hospital in Redwood City. Photo by Brandt Design Group, which worked on the 2015 rebuild of the facility.

San Mateo County announced yesterday it would spend $4.5 million to provide up to 10 extra intensive care unit beds at Dignity Health’s Sequoia Hospital in Redwood City.

The extra beds are the result of a partnership between the county, Dignity Health and AMI Expeditionary Healthcare, a company that provides clinical resources, such as personnel and health care solutions, to hospital settings worldwide.

The agreement will cover medical personnel for 30 days through AMI, which will provide licensed medical professionals to staff the ICU beds at Sequoia Hospital. The first five-bed unit will be staffed within a week with the second five-bed unit available the following week.

County Manager Mike Callagy said the extra “around the clock” staffing would be a regional asset as COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations rise.

“We’ve already received some patients from outside the county and we want to make sure that we’re able to respond to all the needs that we have,” Callagy said.

Callagy said the $4.5 million investment will come from federal funding through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

Kevin Kimbrough, Dignity Health’s manager of external communications, said that the extra beds would add to Sequoia’s existing ICU beds.

“Sequoia Hospital has 16 licensed ICU beds. There is capacity within our hospital to surge beyond that. In order to do that we would convert existing beds into beds that are ICU capable,” Kimbrough said.

The partnership comes amidst record-high Covid cases in San Mateo County, with over 7,000 cases reported over the last 30 days, representing about one-third of the county’s total cases. There are 133 Covid patients hospitalized as of Sunday, leaving seven regular ICU beds and an additional 88 surge beds available in the county.

The Bay Area’s ICU availability is at 13.7%, according to state data, which triggered a regional stay-at-home order last week.

“When ICU capacity drops below 15%, every staffed ICU bed counts, especially for each individual who needs care,” Travis Kusman, Emergency Medical Services director for San Mateo County, said in a statement. Kusman also serves as the regional disaster medical health coordinator.

The county’s Medical Health Operational Area Coordinator program will coordinate placing patients into the supplemental ICU beds.

Both Sequoia Hospital and AMI Expeditionary Healthcare have helped pandemic efforts in the county in the past. Sequoia’s critical care and ICU teams have been treating ICU patients while medical personnel from AMI Expeditionary Healthcare have supported COVID-19 testing and clinical services at congregate care facilities in the county.

While the additional beds serve an important need, Chief of San Mateo County Health Louise Rogers asked that people continue to follow safety guidelines.

“In addition to reinforcing what we all need to do as residents — to always wear a mask in public, insulate our households from exposure, and taking the earliest possible actions to mask, isolate, self-quarantine even within our households — we determined there is an additional role we could play by investing in greater ICU staffing capacity,” Rogers said. “This partnership between San Mateo County, AMI, and Dignity Health is a timely backstop to preserve the availability of medical care for Bay Area residents.” — Bay City News

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