As part of its commitment to the people of California, the Department of State Hospitals (DSH) is posting information on its website to keep the public informed of its activities to protect its patients and employees from COVID-19. DSH continues to plan and prepare its response to the evolving pandemic, following guidance from the California Department of Public Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and other state and local partners.
Since late May 2020, DSH has identified a growing number of positive cases of COVID-19 among its patients, its employees and among other workers assigned to DSH facilities. When a positive employee or patient is identified, the hospitals are performing widespread testing for both patients and employees. DSH is also performing ongoing surveillance testing for employees working in its skilled nursing facilities, gero-psychiatric units, and medically fragile units within its hospitals.
The Department has activated a number of patient isolation units at each hospital where patients who have tested positive for COVID-19 can be isolated from other patients. Units where potential exposures may have occurred were placed on quarantine with increased infection prevention measures while serial testing of patients and employees is conducted. DSH has also implemented Admission Observation units for patients returning from outside medical facilities or who are newly admitting to our hospitals. Patients when admitted to these units will be observed for signs and symptoms of COVID-19 for a period of at least 14 days and receive serial testing for COVID-19. After this period, if they are negative for COVID-19, they will be moved to their regularly assigned treatment unit. The Department has also implemented an on-site employee testing program.
DSH remains committed to preventing the spread of COVID-19 within DSH hospitals and working with local Public Health officials to protect our patients and employees. The COVID-19 pandemic continues to be a rapidly evolving situation. The Department continues to plan, assess and evolve its preparedness and response to the rapidly changing circumstances and guidance it receives. Here are highlights of the Department’s preparation activities since the pandemic started:
- In mid-March 2020, DSH-Sacramento activated the department's Emergency Operation Center, and hospitals have activated their incident command centers and developed incident action plans to better communicate and coordinate our department's response efforts.
- Hospitals have updated their plans for infection control, respiratory protection, and pandemic response.
- Normal hospital visiting has been prohibited until further notice, except for court-ordered evaluations, other legal matters, or end-of-life care. In the event of other special situations in which visitation may be considered, approval of the hospital’s medical director would be required. All approved visitors are subject to a health screening.
- Video-visiting is available at all hospitals for patients and their family members.
- All hospital employees are being screened for symptoms of COVID-19, including having their temperature taken, as they arrive for work. Employees who do not pass the screening are sent home.
- Hospital employees are required to wear a mask and a face shield when they are in patient care areas. In addition, they must wear a mask in other areas when working in close proximity to others, or as mandated by local orders.
- New or readmitting patients are tested for COVID-19 either prior to or upon admission to our hospitals. Current patients are tested for COVID-19 when clinically indicated or when there has been a potential exposure to COVID-19.
- Employees are being tested for COVID-19 when there has been a potential exposure. Surveillance testing is ongoing for employees working in DSH’s skilled nursing, medically fragile, and geriatric units.
- All patients are being provided a mask and encouraged to wear it.
- Isolation spaces for treatment of patients who have tested positive for COVID-19 were identified and prepared.
- Patient social distancing measures have been implemented and regular patient activities have been modified.
- Telework is available for positions that are eligible, to the extent that the department can still fulfill its critical essential services to the public.
- Admissions of certain categories of patients were temporarily suspended from mid-March through late May 2020, and again in mid-January, but resumed in February.
- Admissions Observation Units were established to observe and test patients who are admitting to our hospitals for COVID-19 before they are moved to their treatment unit.
- In November 2020, DSH activated the Southern Youth Correctional Center, Norwalk, to treat patients if more bed space is needed at a state hospital to respond to a COVID-19 outbreak.
- In December 2020, DSH began daily COVID-19 antigen testing of hospital staff who have contact with patients or work in patient care areas. All other hospital staff who do not have patient contact are required to participate in weekly PCR testing.
- In December, DSH began offering COVID-19 vaccinations to patients and staff.
- Admissions of certain categories of patients were temporarily suspended from January to February 2021.
- Patients and employees have received, and continue to receive, information about how to protect themselves from COVID-19, including activities involving personal hygiene and social distancing.
- DSH programs including the statewide Conditional Release Program, the Los Angeles Community Based Restoration Program and Jail-Based Competency Programs have implemented modified programming to ensure continued delivery of effective treatment while adhering to social distancing guidelines.
- Members of the Executive Team serve as members of regional and national workgroups and associations with members from other state hospitals across the country. They are monitoring trends and best practices of our state hospitals and other healthcare systems who are planning, preparing and responding to COVID-19.
These actions and others by DSH are part of an ongoing process that will be continuously improved and strengthened by guidance from the California Department of Public Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and other state and local partners.