COVID-19 in California | An Inside Perspective from the Huntington Hospital

While many see it as a detriment working from home, some have to risk their health to ensure our communities are well taken care of daily

PHOTO: Eric Fabbro | News | Huntington Hospital in Pasadena, CA

Surnames of those interviewed have been omitted.

We are now over a month into this pandemic, even further for California if you look at the first cases reported, and many are still adapting to the new life presented before them. While no one is statistically safe from the coronavirus  – even the most simple of tasks like taking a trip to the grocery store, may be fraught with health hazards – citizens are self-quarantining in the relative safety of their homes.

Some do not have that benefit.

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While many critics have cited the federal level’s response to the COVID-19 crisis has been less than favorable, many of those who occupy positions that are deemed “essential services” have continued to put themselves at risk while maintaining a resolute sense of dedication to the communities they serve.

Medical workers, of course, are one of those occupational facets now burdened with the brunt of this crisis and the Huntington Hospital in Pasadena has been one of the epicenters working in response to the pandemic here in Southern California, having tested over 1,000 patients to date since March 6.

Enter Kris a South Pasadena resident and RN ( registered nurse ) who has served patients at the Huntington for a total of six years – 3 of which were as a CNA ( certified nursing assistant ). While the world, and our community at large, still adapts to what is now being called “the new reality” – one moniker out of many – he and his colleagues retain a solid disposition in the face of a growing epidemic in which we are all in the thick of.

Kris now works exclusively with COVID-19 patients daily, saying that the duty is “ Not too stressful as the resources provided to us I believe to be adequate.” However he does note that the conditions have and are continuing to improve over time, explaining that the nurse to patient ratio was almost double what it is now, “ Our ratio is much smaller now… It’s a 3:1 ratio when before it was 5:1 for Med Surg (medical-surgery) nurses.”

The Huntington, in his words, takes in many patients because it “basically is Pasadena’s personal hospital yet it serves the communities around it because of its wealth of services and programs.”

While the hospital itself has had a surprisingly a slim margin of positive tests – as of April 12 only 155 out of 1,083 ( about 14% ) cases, and 67 total patients currently in hospital care, Kris mentions that there are several factors which can be attributed to these seemingly relieving results, two of which would be “sociodemographic of the region ( age, ethnicity, wealth ) and how soon that community started the precautionary measures like quarantining.”

Of course another is to be considered in the fact that not everyone who may have the coronavirus has been tested, which also can be chalked up to the lack of tests available, which Kris says is still and issue that is showing some silver linings, “I hear it’s the inability to analyze the test and provide results quickly that is the biggest impediment. As manufacturers of tests are ramping up production, as well as PPE companies and testing facilities, I think ease of access has and will continue to improve however.”

The Huntington Hospital has also taken precautionary measures as early as the emerging weeks of March, setting up overflow tents which Kris states “thankfully as of yet have not been in use” for patients and cancelling any elective surgeries, classes, events and support groups, as well as restricting any public visitations.

Though the it may be inferred through this crisis that COVID-19 patients have taken precedence, those with other ailments in need of medical attention have certainly not been forgotten, “Patients are being treated with the same high-level of care that the Huntington Hospital is renowned for,” says Kris.

The regulations ostensibly don’t stop, and even get more strict, when they apply to those working in the field, with the hospital taking everyone’s temperature and receiving a face mask upon entering the premises. “Frequent donning and doffing of extensive personal protective equipment ( PPE ) has made attending to even the most simple of a patient’s needs a more tedious task.” Says Kris in regards to how his daily routine has changed, but still insistent on fulfilling tasks the hospital needs, “My vacation and PTO days that I requested earlier in the year are now pointless, so I’ve been picking up a few extra shifts here and there to help out.:

As the nation struggled on the precipice of a globally spread virus to contain any cases, a preeminent fear was the lack of medical supplies, namely PPE ( personal protective equipment ) and respirators, an issue that Kris says he’s aware of but that he Huntington has managed to handle well for now, “Staff considers ourselves very fortunate to have the equipment we have as we know how in short supply our system is.”

Organizations such as Project PPE who fabricate their own masks and gowns as well as donations from individuals have kept many essential workers’ health in stasis. According to the Huntington Hospital’s website, there are many ways to help such as:

– donating commercially-made or homemade supplies

– making a financial gift

– donating blood

– and staying home according to health mandates

Kris also reiterates ways that anyone can help, stating, “The more support provided to the Huntington Hospital and it’s staff, the higher quality and quantity of care we can provide as well! Cover your mouth, stay indoors, 6 feet apart, and keep your lungs strong with breathing exercises, whether or not you have symptoms.”

And while a vast majority of you reading this may be at home, all of the “cheerleading”, letters, and donations, is acknowledged and graciously accepted. “All I hear from the community is cheers and praise for my coworkers and I, which is wonderful.” Says Kris, showing his gratefulness for the enormously supportive response. He also hands it to his fellow staff and superiors, “I can’t exaggerate the amount of support my superiors have shown myself and fellow healthcare staff during this time as well, from supervisors and management all the way to the top with the Chief Nurse and CEO. They are always there and present to accommodate staff and patient needs, and during this time this is especially important.”

It is has become clearer who the real heroes in this world are, and though it may not seem evident now that a societal paradigm shift is occurring, our attention given towards those who risk their lives in the face of perilous means mustn’t waver, even long after this has passed.

Kris leaves us with some final thoughts:

“I personally think we in the community should and do consider ourselves fortunate to have this organization serving our community, with the amount of attention to detail and care their services provide. I was born here, worked as a candy striper (volunteer), as a nurse assistant, and now an RN and I’ve learned one thing this whole time: the Huntington Memorial Hospital is one in a million.”