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Hospitals Execs Prep For Coronavirus Surge

By Orange County Business Journal

March 30, 2020

Orange County hospitals have bolstered medical staff and prepared safety zones for patients potentially infected with the coronavirus to receive care.

While preparing for a surge in work, executives at the area’s top hospitals express confidence that they’re up to the challenge.

“Our community is shaken,” Barry Arbuckle, chief executive of MemorialCare Health System, the largest nonprofit healthcare entity in Orange County, told the Business Journal.

“Let me offer some reassurance,” he added. “We live in a community that offers exceptional healthcare close to home. Whether you seek care at MemorialCare or another health system, you are getting among the best the world has to offer.”

Orange County’s largest hospitals last week told the Business Journal they are gearing up for work, as the coronavirus blankets itself across Southern California.

At press time on March 27, there were more than 250 cases and the first death in Orange County. Nationwide, there were more than 1,300 deaths reported.

OC’s hospitals are postponing elective surgeries, opening drive-thru testing sites, switching their doctors to tele-medicine instead of office visits and prepping special floors in case the pandemic widens.

They’re also promoting education about the virus, and stress the need for the local community to make good decisions.

“There is a lot of misinformation and understandable concern about COVID-19,” said Robert Braithwaite, chief executive of Hoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterian.

“These are unprecedented times for America and the world. Together we are confronting the COVID-19 pandemic and it is more important than ever to take care of one another and be diligent and wise in our daily activities,” he said.

Orange County has 6,507 beds at the 31 largest hospitals, including extended care facilities, according to the Business Journal’s annual list of hospitals published in February. These hospitals have 42,339 full-time employees.

It hasn’t been disclosed if doctors and nurses at any area hospitals have tested positive for the coronavirus; individual hospitals have referred such questions to the Orange County Health Care Agency.

“We are doing everything in our power to protect our caregivers,” said Erik Wexler, executive vice president and chief executive of health and services for Providence St. Joseph’s Southern California Region.

As of early last week, no caregivers or physicians with Providence hospitals—which counts Mission Hospital under its umbrella—have contracted the virus, Wexler said during a virtual town hall meeting, regarding their response to the coronavirus.

“These are certainly unprecedented times,” he said. “As this ramps up, we will be prepared,” Wexler said.

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


The hospital said it has “a world class infection prevention team leading our efforts.” This effort includes education, training and drills to properly screen and isolate patients for infectious conditions.

It is advising patients to first call their primary care physician, or if needed, contact one of its 13 urgent care locations throughout the county that have testing capability.

The testing of patients is being prioritized to those at the highest risk of developing complications.

Hoag clinicians are screening all patients for fever, respiratory symptoms and travel history within a month prior to symptom onset. Anyone meeting the CDC-established criteria is isolated and further testing and care is guided by the Orange County health department.

Hoag has reserved floors at its hospital campuses for patients who may have the virus.

It said it is continuously monitoring its resources to determine if it has enough of the appropriate equipment like masks and ventilators.

About a week ago, it got a donation of 5,000 N95 respirator masks from Trevor Theriott, chief executive of Las Vegas-based medical device company ManaMed Inc.

“Please know that Hoag will be with the community every step of the way,” Braithwaite told the Business Journal. “Our commitment to you is that we will continue to share important guidelines, practices and critical updates as the situation evolves, to both keep you informed and keep you well.”

Hoag is the second-biggest hospital on the Journal’s list, pulling in $1.1 billion. It has 6,315 employees and can provide 518 licensed beds at its Newport Beach and Irvine locations.

To view the original Orange County Business Journel article, please click here.