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Medical Resources Stretched Thin in Rural Maricopa County

As COVID cases surge, many hospitals in the Central Valley are approaching capacity.

That’s not the case in Mariposa County, at least not yet. But the county’s health officer is warning that resources are becoming scarce for those who need critical care.

The John C. Fremont Healthcare District hospital in Mariposa County has 19 beds and only one COVID-19 patient. But the hospital doesn’t have an intensive care unit. That means patients in need of life support or ventilation have to be transferred to Fresno or Modesto, where ICUs were 94 percent full earlier this week.

“We’re having patients hang out longer in our emergency department, or, if we find an accepting hospital, the ambulance gets there and they’re hanging out longer waiting to transfer that patient,” said Dr. Eric Sergienko, the Mariposa County health officer.

As more patients need transfers, Sergienko worries paramedics may be in short supply. So even after a bad car accident, you could be waiting longer for an ambulance and emergency care.

“The techniques that a paramedic could bring to the call are an additional 20 minutes away. So even there, in the pre-hospital setting, you’ll see increased mortality,” Sergienko said.

He says stay-at home orders may be important not just for reducing infections, but for decreasing competition for scarce resources like ambulances.

—Kerry Klein, Valley Public Radio (@EineKleineKerry)

Copyright 2020 KQED