A recent story in the Wall Street Journal inaccurately depicted the response of California’s hospitals to an unprecedented surge in COVID-19 patients in Imperial County this past summer. CHA has sent a Letter to the Editor correcting the misrepresentations in the story.
The article, which uses a handful of emails to characterize a weeks-long crisis, erroneously captures California hospitals’ response to an extraordinary disease outbreak in a remote border county. The facts are that more than 600 COVID-19 patients were successfully transferred from Imperial County to hospitals throughout California during this emergency. The article also suggests many hospitals had available ICU beds that went unused during this time period, but that number includes pediatric and neonatal beds which are inappropriate for adult care. It also suggests that financial considerations played a role in patient transfer decisions, when obtaining insurance or billing information is standard practice for all hospitals during transfer intake, and was not a determining factor in these transfers.
In fact, this is a story of triumph under extreme pressure, as a COVID outbreak in Mexicali caused a flood of expatriates back to the U.S. for care, overwhelming the only two, small hospitals in Imperial County. Because the usual system of mutual aid – transferring patients to other hospitals – doesn’t work when all counties are preparing for surges in COVID patients, this crisis spawned a new statewide system for patient transfers whose initial flaws were quickly resolved. Together, California hospitals worked to help save hundreds of lives.