A medical union representative on the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors has asked California Democrat Governor Gavin Newsom to bring the Navy hospital ship, USNS Mercy, back to LA.
"Our SEIU healthcare workers are exhausted and our hospitals are overwhelmed. They need backup," Supervisor Janice Hahn wrote in the Dec. 29 letter.
According to a statement on her website, Hahn sent the letter to the governor, "…supporting SEIU 721’s request for Army National Guard medical personnel, specifically additional registered nurses, licensed vocational nurses, and respiratory care practitioners, to be sent to Los Angeles County hospitals."
The local SEIU is the largest public-sector union in Southern California, representing over 95,000 workers, many of whom work in hospitals in America’s most populated county that has reportedly been overwhelmed with coronavirus patients.
Hahn also asked Newsom to, "…call on our federal partners to bring back the USNS Mercy with accompanying medical staff."
The USNS Mercy docked for a short time in the Port of LA in March, and was one of several field locations created by the state in preparation for an expected COVID-19 surge. Newsom said the surge would require an additional 50,000 beds. The ship’s crew were meant to treat other patients, so that hospitals could concentrate on people suffering from coronavirus.
However, the expected surge of patients never came, hospitals were not overwhelmed and the Mercy’s crew only treated 77 patients in seven weeks on station. The ship departed LA on May 15.
Hahn wants the Mercy to, "…add more emergency care capacity for patients not suffering from COVID-19. This will in turn alleviate the burden on hospitals, so they can focus on severely ill COVID-19 patients."
Hahn is also backing SEIU 721’s request for the Army National Guard medical personnel to be deployed to the area to provide assistance.
"Our public health experts warn that the worst is yet to come with the anticipated incoming Christmas and New Year’s holiday surge," Hahn wrote.
The state had also leased the former St. Vincent Medical Center in LA. Officials temporarily reopened the facility as the Los Angeles Surge Hospital, in anticipation of a surge that never happened.
The temporary facility was only open for only 39 days and treated just 64 patients. Yet, according to the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services, the operating costs totaled $21.5 million.
The facility is owned by Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong, owner the Los Angeles Times. According to The Times, he had planned "...to create a coronavirus research facility on the campus" that would "...relieve pressure on other hospitals."
On Tuesday, Newsom extended region wide restrictions that were originally imposed on December 4, due to a shortage of intensive care unit beds in Southern California. The order shut down outdoor restaurant dining, hair salons, card rooms and restricted capacity at retail stores, but allowed Hollywood production to continue.