Barton in surge protection mode during virus spike |

Barton in surge protection mode during virus spike

Cheyanne Neuffer

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — Barton Memorial Hospital is feeling the impact from the coronavirus surge.

El Dorado County moved into the most restrictive purple tier on Tuesday, Nov. 17. This level includes no indoor dining, no indoor religious services, no indoor fitness services, and only outdoor family entertainment.

Barton has also shifted operations to accommodate the restrictions of the tier shift.

Barton’s facilities are seeing the impacts from the increase in COVID-19 cases.

According to Mindi Befu Director of Public Relations, Barton has seen increases at their ambulatory clinics, the emergency department and acute care units.

COVID-19 hospitalizations have increased, including nine of their 28 patients having been diagnosed with COVID-19 on Thursday on top of eight on Wednesday.

“Barton Memorial Hospital continues to have bed capacity, and our total number of in-house patients is not unusual during the winter months, however, with global staffing shortages and other regional hospitals reaching inpatient capacity, we are preparing for the challenges that lie ahead with the pandemic,” Befu said.

The county dashboard on Nov. 18 showed that there were only five hospitalizations in all of the county, however Carla Hass, director of communications and outreach, said the discrepancy was due to a lag in reflecting the updated numbers and the dashboard released on Nov. 19 will reflect those current numbers.

Barton has capacity in both its medical/surgical/orthopedic unit as well as within the ICU with currently 28 beds filled out of the 63-bed capacity, and they have plans to add capacity.

“Barton is prepared for an anticipated patient surge and is able to more than double its hospital bed capacity as well as expand its facilities to accommodate patients who may be infected by the virus,” Befu said. “Barton Health is currently licensed for 63 acute beds, including nine within their intensive care unit, and an additional 48 long-term care beds in the skilled nursing facility.”

Barton also hired temporary staff, including traveling nurses.

As part of preparation for a potential influx, Barton will expand to have capacity for 150 total acute beds with 25 intended for intensive care patients.

“Capacity expansion will take place through a phased approach to meet patient needs and include utilizing other units to care for patients,” Befu said.

She said if more beds are needed in MSO unit, non-infectious female patients needing care may be moved to the Labor and Delivery unit.

Barton is currently still offering all medical services through virtual or in-person including elective surgeries and procedures.

“We are constantly assessing and prioritizing operations to ensure we are servicing the most emergent needs of our patients first,” Befu said.

Barton has implemented their COVID-19 Response Plan to create different ways to receive care during the pandemic.

Barton’s drive-up testing clinic has started again, expanding testing access with referral by the COVID-19 healthline. The clinic is located on Emerald Bay Rd. in South Lake Tahoe.

Free asymptomatic testing will continue to be offered at Lake Tahoe Community College; register and make an appointment online at

Barton’s emergency department has also expanded waiting and treatment areas for suspected COVID-19 patients, however visitation has been restricted, allowing visitation only for pediatric patients, those with disabilities, in crisis or end-of-life situations.

Barton also reinstated the COVID-19 Response Fund. Applications for those needing financial assistance offered by the fund are available at

Barton has also restricted patient visitation however, both parents may accompany their child at the hospital and one parent is allowed at in-person medical appointments. Adult patients can no longer have visitors with the exception of patients with disabilities, in crisis, or facing end of life.

Barton’s birthing center allows one support person as well as a certified doula or midwife to accompany delivering mothers. Mothers-to-be are tested prior to delivery.

Barton said it will continue to maintain personal protective equipment such as face masks and gowns.

Barton also is urging the community to continue mitigation efforts, including wearing a face mask outside the home, practicing physical distancing and good hand hygiene and following guidance from public health officials.

California has issued a travel advisory discouraging residents from traveling outside the state. Anyone going into or returning to California, both residents and non-residents, is recommended to complete a 14-day quarantine.

“The dedication and hard work of our healthcare workers is essential to managing this current surge of COVID-19 cases,” Befu said. “With proper mitigation strategies such as wearing masks and minimizing indoor interactions with people outside of your household, we are hopeful as a community we can slow the spread of COVID-19.”

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