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Stanford Medicine accepts patient transfers during pandemic

Bay Area

STANFORD, Calif. (KRON) — The still-surging pandemic continues to put pressure on hospitals, which in some cases are simply running out of room.

To remedy that, patients are now being routinely transferred from one hospital to another. For example, Stanford Medicine has accepted hundreds of patients from struggling hospitals across the region.

The transfers are part of a mutual aid agreement forged long ago for just such an emergency as the one we’re all in right now.

While healthy competition exists between Stanford and other area hospitals in normal times, the pandemic has them looking out for each other for the greater good, says Stanford emergency medicine’s Dr. Andra Blomkalns.

“This is about mutual aid to other facilities in the area,” Dr. Blomkalns said. “And as the pandemic changes, different hospitals in different areas have different needs.”

In the past two months, more than 600 patients, including 135 from other South Bay hospitals struggling to find ICU and other beds, have been moved to Stanford hospital, which has more room and more resources.

At least 47 of those patients had COVID while the vast majority had other conditions that have led some hospitals to cancel or postpone surgeries and other care.

“It’s all types of patients — kidney patients, cancer patients, heart patients and all that,” Dr. Blomkalns said. “In general, COVID has stretched the resources of all of our hospitals and all of our systems.”

To expedite the transfer process, Stanford Medicine waives the usual insurance clearance process and other steps that might otherwise come with patients transfers. Some hospitals lack other resources and Stanford is helping with that too, says Dr. Blomkalns.

Stanford and other hospitals regularly compare notes amid needs that change from day to day. One hospital may lack ICU beds while another lacks surgery care.

Patients have been transferred here from as far away as the Imperial Valley, but mostly it’s local with the larger hospitals helping out their smaller counterparts, often those in areas hardest hit by the pandemic.

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