HEMET HOSPITAL IS DEALING WITH COVID AND THEN SOME

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Senior reporter Rusty Strait receives COVID-19 vaccination at the Hemet Valley Global Medical Center. Courtesy Photo of John D. Petty

With all the rumors and social media assumptions, I decided to go to the source and find out just what is going on at our hospital in Hemet and how much truth there is to rumors and other opinions and assumptions.

Dr. Sumanta Chaudhuri-Saini, daughter of Hemet Global Medical Center owner Kali P. Chaudhuri is not much known medically in our community, but most residents of ten years or more remember her wadding held at the family residence on Lake Street. She sat atop one of the elephants imported from India for the occasion.

That was then. Now she is a practicing physician and presented tome as an expert about our Hemet Hospital. And although her looks are a good way below her age, she is an encyclopedia of our medical center.

I began by asking about the most pervasive rumor that hospitals refer to flu cases as COVID-19 because it brings more money. True or false?

“Absolutely not true,” she declares. “We are required to categorize every case, plus our annual audits would show the difference. You can bet that no insurance company is going to pay more for a flu patient that was disguised as COVID. It just doesn’t happen.”

How badly, I asked, has the COVID virus affected this hospital?

“Of course, it has had an impact onus, but hasn’t taken over like it has in places like Los Angeles, which is inundated with COVID. Of course, Los Angeles is a very large city with more cross-city traffic than we have. It has occupied certain floors and we have minimized classic emanations. If a patient is on a COVID floor, we make sure any instruments or necessary equipment from that floor is completely sterilized before it is moved anywhere else. As to how many cases we’ve had, at the peak, we had about 85 cases at the Hemet Hospital, although there were considerably more in the Valley because not all cases require hospitalization. We are not and have not been over-crowded. Our biggest problem is staff. Every hospital in the State is competing for nurses. We certainly urge attendances to nurses schools because it is a good profession, well paid and much needed.”

So there is a shortage of nurses?

“There certainly is. It is a very competitive business. Every hospital is running short. Not every bed in the hospital is taken by a covid patient. We have other sick people who need treatment. ICU nurses see a lot of very sick COVID patients. That’s currently our biggest challenge.”

Has there been a surge since Christmas?

“We have not seen an after Christmas/New Year surge that was expected. I think we are somewhat out of the weeds from that now. It takes about 14 days for the surge to appear and we are past that now. That makes us feel somewhat comforted that it doesn’t seem like we are going to see a huge surge but are concerned about the variance of COVID that seems to be spreading at a faster rate than the previous strain.”

Have we received any new strains here?

“Not that I know of. We haven’t noticed a huge surge of new patients that would suggest the new strain has arrived here. That doesn’t mean we won’t. We are watching very carefully.”

How many deaths have occurred from COVID here? I’ve heard somewhere in the fifties.

“I’m not sure of the exact number. I would say somewhere between 50 and 60 so far.”

Has any of the staff resisted getting vaccinated?

“A few…some of the staff say they want to wait and see – to make sure that there are no bad reactions. However, the majority of the staff is getting their vaccinations without incident. You may not know, but at the beginning of the pandemic, Hemet Hospital was the first community hospital that had drive-through testing when nobody knew where to go get tested. All they needed was a doctor’s order. Now Hemet Public has a testing schedule which can be availed by appointment by calling the City of Hemet I believe. 

“Our hospital was also the first to have a plasma donation program where we contacted people who have been tested or admitted to the hospital to come in afterward and donate plasma because they have recovered so that we can give plasma to others suffering from the disease. Taking donated plasma from one who had COVID and recovered to give to new cases. It has the antibodies. People who have had the virus have a high amount of antibodies in their plasma.”

As I’m sure you have heard of those who like to downplay the hospital. As one who has had two major surgeries here, I’ve never had better service. That’s my personal experience.

“Glad to hear you say that. We have a remarkable nurses training course here and many doctors now serve their residency here. We are on top of every new medical practice and very proud of our ratings.”

Incidentally, Hemet Valley Global Medical Center is one of the highest-rated in the County.

rustystrait@gmail.com

Rusty Strait • Senior Reporter

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