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Palomar field hospital
Palomar Medical Center in Escondido is the site of a 202-bed FEMA medical hospital. Courtesy photo
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Palomar federal field hospital activated, now has 10 patients

ESCONDIDO – A 202-bed federal field hospital inside of Palomar Medical Center in Escondido that was activated last week to support overwhelmed hospitals now has 10 patients.

The FEMA hospital, located on the 10th and 11th floors of Palomar Medical Center, was first announced back in April but was officially activated last week as ICU capacity in San Diego remains at 0%.

According to Brian Ferguson from the California Office of Emergency Services, the Palomar field hospital will serve “the wider San Diego region with a particular eye towards decompressing overburdened hospitals in Imperial County.”

One of these hospitals, El Centro Regional Medical Center, which is bearing the brunt of the coronavirus in Imperial County, reported that it ran out of ICU beds just last week.

Ten patients have been transferred to the field hospital, Gov. Gavin Newsom said Monday. Currently, the state has 132 patients in its alternate care sites or federal field hospitals.

The field hospital, which officially opened on Dec. 31, is being used to treat patients that have health issues or injuries not related to COVID-19, according to the governor.

“The type of patients that will be seen at the site will be individuals who are not intubated, can self-feed and who generally require a skilled-nursing level of care,” Ferguson said in an email to The Coast News. “More specifically, the intent of the Palomar alternative care site is to provide care for patients and ease the strain on health care delivery systems. This will allow hospitals to focus their resources on those with the most acute needs.”

Newsom also said during the press conference that there are substantially more alternate care sites throughout the state that are on standby but have not yet been activated for use.

Each bed at the Palomar site has a single chair at its side and holds a thin mattress, a pillow, and a package containing toilet paper, face masks, a toothbrush and other supplies.

The beds and supplies were provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the buildout of the site was done by the California National Guard.

Ferguson encouraged that any persons requiring medical attention for COVID-19 should continue to consult with their physicians and should not seek admission or care directly at these sites.

San Diego County’s stay-at-home order was extended last week for an additional three weeks, along with several other Southern California counties, due to the critical situation in hospitals.

Businesses including restaurants, bars, salons, gyms, etc. will remain closed until the order is lifted.

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