As omicron surge begins to recede, Tarzana hospital remains short on COVID-19 treatments

At Providence Cedars-Sinai Tarzana Medical Center, only one out of 16 ICU beds is available — and that’s an improvement.

Dr. Thomas Yadegar, medical director of the ICU, said the situation is “better” and manageable for the health care workers.

“At this point, we’re just trying to get over the current surge,” he said.

At the peak of the omicron surge, patients — the majority of whom are unvaccinated — would have to wait for access to a hospital bed.

“It wasn’t unusual to have patients wait 24 hours or longer to wait for an ICU bed and even longer for a regular bed,” Yadegar said.

Further complicating matters, the hospital encountered staffing issues.

“Not only did we have a tremendous amount of patients that needed our help, but a lot of our staff, a lot of our physicians, nurses, respiratory therapists, developed COVID-19 and were unfortunately on the sideline,” Yadegar said.

While the hospital’s capacity conundrum has improved recently, finding medications remains a struggle.

“When you know that there are therapies out there and you can’t get them for you patients, it just breaks your heart,” Yadegar said.

Paxlovid was found to be about 88% effective at preventing hospitalization and death, while Molnupiravir was about 30% effective. There’s also Sotrovimab, a monoclonal antibody infusion, that was found to be about 85% effective.

However, the medications are in short supply.

“Ninety percent of [patients] would not be here had they gotten treatment early enough,” Yadegar said.

The U.S. has purchased millions of courses of these medications for 2022, and while there are plans to scale up production, more deliveries aren’t expected until the spring and summer, forcing Yadegar and his colleagues to often spend hours on the phone trying to track down medications at local pharmacies.

Sometimes, they have to ration care.

“I think out of the whole two years, that is the most demoralizing part of it,” Yadegar said. “As nurses and physicians, the last thing we ever want to do is to ration care … That’s hard to accept. And when it happens over and over, the same day, and over and over, every single day, it makes it unbearable.”

Yadegar is hoping there will be more “good days” in the future.

“A good day is when you don’t have to hear COVID-19,” he said. “A good day is when you get to hear laughter, and you get to hug your family members, and hug your patients.”

To find where antiviral treatments may be available, visit the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health’s website on COVID-19 medicines and click “Where to Get Paxlovid and Molnipiravir.”

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