Cottage Gives First Data Report on COVID-19 Patients

Santa Barbara’s Main Healthcare Provider Had Been Reluctant to Share Information

Ron Werft, President and CEO of Cottage Health | Credit: Paul Wellman (file)

Cottage Health, Santa Barbara County’s principal provider of medical services, has for the first time released detailed data on its current count of COVID-19 patients as well as plans for an anticipated surge of new cases. The disclosure comes more than two weeks after the county’s first confirmed COVID-19 case and amid growing concern ― among not only residents but also local leadership ― over the organization’s lack of public communication during the health crisis.

The data follows new reporting guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention this Sunday, which asks regional partners to complete and transmit this spreadsheet to the federal agency by 5 p.m. every day. The announcement came in a letter from Vice President Mike Pence’s office to hospital administrators throughout the country. “We understand that you may already be reporting to your State,” the letter reads, “but the data is needed at the federal level to support FEMA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in their efforts to support states and localities in addressing and responding to the virus.”

Cottage Health, which operates hospitals in Santa Barbara, Goleta, and Santa Ynez, stated in the April 1 status report that it is caring for 26 confirmed and suspected COVID-19 patients at the Santa Barbara campus; 19 of the patients are in stable condition, and seven are in critical condition; four of the critical patients are on ventilators. Systemwide, 11 ventilators are in use by other patients, with 49 more available.

Of Cottage Health’s 373 total acute care beds, 135 are occupied and 238 are empty. Among those 135 patients, 26 are in isolation for COVID-19 symptoms; among those 26, seven are in critical care.

The organization’s surge plan calls for an additional 270 acute care beds. To increase staffing, said spokesperson Maria Zate in a press statement, “We have been in contact with retired nurses and physicians. We are finding solutions so essential healthcare workers can work while others isolate at home: providing daycare, enabling remote work where applicable, cross-training employees, hiring more employees and utilizing partner resources for staffing.” Testing supplies and turnaround time are a continuing challenge. 

Community members have responded generously to Cottage’s call for medical supplies, Zate said. The Drop-Off Center continues to accept donations in the Goleta Valley Cottage Hospital parking lot on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

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