Hospitals Reopening for Non-COVID-19 Work

Friday, May 22, 2020

Main News Photo

(OC Business Journal)

Orange County’s hospitals are returning to normal, in phases, as a feared surge of Coronavirus patients has not occurred.

“UCI Health is fully operational and providing all levels of care in a safe environment for patients and staff,” Chad Lefteris, CEO, UCI Health, told the Business Journal.

OC hospitals are a huge industry unto themselves.

According to the Business Journal’s annual list, 31 facilities reported $9.1 billion in net patient revenue for the 12 months ended Sept. 30. That amounted to about $758 million a month.

Last year, they handled 1.37 million patient days and 3.7 million outpatient visits.

The hospitals, which have 6,507 licensed beds, in mid-March began postponing elective surgeries to prepare for a surge in Coronavirus cases.

Yet, the number of patients hospitalized for the Coronavirus has been mostly under 200; as of press time, it reached 227, including 79 in intensive care, according to the Orange County Health Care Agency.

Here is a roundup of what OC’s biggest hospitals are doing:

UCI Health

UCI Health, the largest hospital in Orange County, earlier this month started resuming regular operations.

“We realize that during the COVID-19 pandemic, patients may have delayed seeking care for their health needs,” Lefteris said. “It is important that patients receive the timely care they need, whether it’s time for annual exams, keeping up with immunization schedules, diagnostic screenings such a colonoscopy, or health maintenance for a chronic condition.”

In addition to expanded sanitizing and universal masking at all UCI Health facilities, Lefteris said UCI Health is conducting in-house diagnostic COVID-19 testing for all admitted patients and those scheduled for surgery or other procedures. Plans to launch serology, or antibody, testing of heathcare workers are underway.

Lefteris said healthcare will be forever transformed going forward.

“UCI Health has greatly expanded telehealth services,” Lefteris said. We’re finding that many of our patients prefer this option and are taking advantage of it.”


Hoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterian has seen a decline in Coronavirus cases and on May 1 began to schedule essential surgeries and procedures.

“Patients are beginning to reschedule care that they need, or in some cases have postponed,” said Marcy Brown, chief operations officer at OC’s second-biggest hospital.

It has changed regular operations including staggering appointment times, checking temperatures often, requiring face masks, and providing hand sanitizers. Telehealth services have also been enhanced so doctors can communicate with patients via phone or video without risking exposure.

All of its facility waiting areas have “socially distanced seating in lieu of traditional waiting room spaces,” Brown said.

These changes are most likely permanent.

“We do not think any department will go back to where they were pre-COVID,” Brown said. “This is a new normal.”


Most facilities of Kaiser Permanente, OC’s third-largest hospital, remained closed to patients as of press time. It expects to begin elective surgeries again by the end of May, a spokesman said.

“Kaiser Permanente is paying close attention to the trends, and actual numbers related to community exposure to COVID-19, as well as respecting the direction set forth by Gov. Newsom,” Mark Costa, senior vice president, area manager, said.

Physicians who normally practiced in its medical office buildings have transitioned to a Telemedicine Appointment program.

It has the freedom to repurpose its facilities, physicians, and treatment as needed to minimize exposure to its personnel and patients. For example, its Mission Viejo urgent care facility has pharmacy pickup via parking lot “runners” who are nursing staff equipped in full personal protective gear (PPE). They take each patient’s information from their car and go back inside to the pharmacy to retrieve it.


MemorialCare earlier this month began scheduling deferred essential surgeries and preventative healthcare services.

“We are now able to gradually reintroduce these services to meet the needs of our communities” said James Leo, chief medical officer of MemorialCare.

MemorialCare requires all patients to undergo screening including temperature checks and wear masks. All staff, doctors, and medical personnel are required to wear PPE.

In the event someone was to arrive at a MemorialCare facility with Coronavirus symptoms, the “patient who is COVID-19 positive or a Patient Under Investigation is placed in a separate area of the hospital until they are cleared,” Leo said.

Additionally, the “waiting areas are appropriately designed for social distancing of at least six feet between individuals and we maintain stringent compliance.”


Providence’s hospitals in Orange County began scheduling essential surgeries after Gov. Gavin Newsom on April 22 lifted the temporary pause on elective surgeries.

The hospitals now screen anyone entering the hospital, including patients, as well as physicians and other personnel. Those testing positive for COVID-19 are being treated in isolated areas of the hospital.

Caregivers are provided appropriate PPE. The hospitals have added several new hand-sanitizing stations and implemented social distancing in its meeting rooms. It has strict limitations on visitors and suggests inpatients keep in touch with their families by phone or video chat.

The hospitals are daily evaluating whether to furlough employees. To limit its impact, top executives have taken pay cuts.

“These decisions are painful, but in these unprecedented times, we must look at all our options to ensure we can face the financial headwinds coming our way and take actions that will ultimately allow us to preserve our workforce over the long term,” said Erik Wexler, chief executive, Providence Southern California.

“In contrast to some hospitals in major metropolitan areas, Mission has not been overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients, and the vast majority of the patients in the emergency department and hospital are not COVID-19 patients,” said Seth Teigen, chief executive of Mission Hospital, the fourth-largest hospital in Orange County and part of the Providence system that also includes hospitals in Orange and Fullerton.

“On Monday, May 4 we took an important step towards normalcy by resuming essential surgical and invasive procedures.”

Mission Hospital canceled or delayed many surgical procedures due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“As a result, we are seeing an increase in patients who have an immediate need for a surgical procedure and face deteriorating health if the procedure is further delayed,” Teigen said.

“Every day we are seeing patients who waited too long to be seen, causing more serious complications, and that weighs heavily on us, because we know that we could have helped them if they had received our care sooner.”

The hospital is closely monitoring capacity, PPE and pharmaceuticals.

“Should we see a significant shift in any of these areas, we will make adjustments,” Teigen said.

Category: Partner News, COVID-19, Healthcare, Community News