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With COVID Cases On The Rise, A Fresno Doctor Worries The ER Will Get Overwhelmed Yet Again

UCSF Fresno
Dr. Sukhjit Dhillon

Dr. Sukhjit Dhillon, an emergency medicine physician at UCSF Fresno, says she is concerned that the recent increase in COVID-19 cases will once again overwhelm hospital emergency rooms.   

New hospital admissions due to COVID-19 have increased in Fresno County by 71 percent in the past week, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

More and more people are coming in with respiratory symptoms likely due to the Delta variant of the coronavirus, she says. Most are unvaccinated.

"And when you ask them why they didn’t get vaccinated, usually the most common answer is 'I just didn’t get around to it' or 'my family doesn’t believe in vaccines,'” Dhillon says.

And there’s been an increase in staff quarantining due to illness or exposure. According to Community Medical Centers' dashboard, as of August 4, 142 staff were self isolating. That’s compared to 84 staff two weeks ago, a 69 percent increase. It’s another strain on the system, Dhillon says.  

“We end up having staff shortages so we don’t have beds in the hospital that we can put patients in,” she says.

The ER was already very busy before this surge due to shootings, accidents, heat related illnesses, and patients using it for primary care. Dhillon is afraid the hospital will become overwhelmed, yet again, especially when cold and flu season starts in the Fall. 

“Are we going to have beds for the patients coming in, or are they just going to sit in chairs? How long is it going to take for us to see them and get them into a bed and give the appropriate care?” she asks.

It’s highly likely, she says, the numbers of new cases will continue to increase.  


Alice Daniel was News Director for KVPR from 2019-2022. Daniel has a master’s degree from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism and more than 25 years of experience as a print and radio journalist.
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