San Jose hospital pleads for donations to help with COVID-19 surge
Valley Medical Center Foundation officials pleaded for donations to help with a surge of COVID-19 cases. Photo by Lloyd Alaban.

    As COVID-19 cases continue to climb in the South Bay, hospitals are struggling to keep up with the demand for resources.

    San Jose-based Valley Medical Center Foundation, the nonprofit arm of the Santa Clara Valley Medical Center hospital system, is pleading with charities across the valley for donations to help deal with the pandemic.

    Foundation President and Executive Director Chris Wilder said cash donations are needed “now more than ever.”

    “We are not done, and we need you badly right now,” Wilder said.

    Donations will be used to buy essential hospital supplies such as ventilators, personal protective equipment, portable X-ray machines, EKG machines and other equipment, he said.

    The foundation has received about $25 million in donations and personal protective equipment from local nonprofits and businesses to support frontline healthcare workers in Santa Clara County since mid-March, according to Wilder. The donations and equipment have gone to the county’s three public hospitals and various health care organizations across the valley.

    “That was wonderful,” Wilder said.

    But it’s not enough. As the pandemic stretches into its ninth month, Wilder fears donor fatigue will set in and contributions will drop off.

    “The problem is, now is no time for that to happen,” Wilder said. “We’re now seeing nearly double the hospitalizations that we saw a couple of weeks ago. And according to people who know best, these numbers are going to get worse. That’s why I’m calling on the philanthropic and business communities of Silicon Valley once again.”

    Cash donations generally make it easier for Valley Medical Center to acquire the necessary equipment. According to Wilder, a recent purchase of lab equipment was paid for straight from the foundation’s donation fund. Without having the funds on hand, the foundation would have needed to go through the county to pay for the machines, which would have taken longer.

    “Because of the generosity of this community, we were able to get those machines right away by wiring the money to the vendor the same day,” Wilder said.

    Should donations start to dwindle, the foundation fears, much-needed equipment and PPE would take longer to obtain using funds from the county. In an industry where every second counts, Kurani said he is unwilling to take that chance.

    “We do have enough PPE available for quite some time,” said Kurani. “If we do have a surge, we will be dipping into that PPE. This is much different than what we saw in March and April.”

    As the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations increases, Valley Medical Center fears that its reserve of medical supplies, such as ventilators and masks, will start to dwindle. The foundation is looking to raise at least $3.5 million through the end of the year.

    An uptick in hospitalizations will stress an already-high number of patients as the flu season arrives. COVID-positive patients are required to be in individual rooms, which means the number of beds — and the ventilators required for them — could be exhausted.

    Some of the most needed material supplies include face masks, face shields, gloves, hand sanitizer and scrubs. Wilder said cash donations are most important right now to help get through winter, which is forecasted to be see the harshest increase of COVID-19 cases yet.

    Health officials announced the county moved to the most restrictive purple tier of California’s coronavirus reopening plan Nov. 17 as daily cases more than doubled in the last 10 days, representing some of the worst levels since the coronavirus first hit.

    As of Nov. 17, Santa Clara County recorded 29,023 cases of COVID-19 with 345 new cases being reported in one day. There are 447 deaths and 151 hospitalizations countywide.

    A return to the purple tier means another shutdown of indoor activity at movie theaters, restaurants, gyms and places of worship, and reduced capacity at grocery stores and shopping centers.

    “We appear to be heading into the worst phase of the pandemic to date,” said Santa Clara County Health Officer Dr. Sara Cody. “Rapidly rising cases and hospitalizations should serve as a wake-up call for our entire community. We ask every resident to do everything they can to slow the spread of transmission in our community, protect our most vulnerable residents, and save lives.”

    Sanjay Kurani, the medical director of inpatient medicine at Valley Medical Center, painted a bleaker picture if the demand for supplies isn’t met and the county doesn’t see a reduction of cases.

    “We are in the third wave of this pandemic,” Kurani said. “This third wave is uniquely different. We’re in the winter. We have non-COVID patients. … We don’t know how many COVID patients we’re going to have and that can put a strain on the entire system, not just in terms of beds but in terms of the staffing as well.”

    County officials encourage residents to wear face coverings, wash their hands frequently and stay at least six feet apart to reduce the number of COVID-19 cases.

    “Is this COVID’s last stand? I don’t know,” Kurani said. “But I think now more than ever we need to be able to partner with the community again and get through what we think is this final push through this winter until we can get these vaccines out.”

    To donate to the VMC Foundation, click here. Donations can also be delivered weekdays between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. at the Santa Clara County Valley Medical Center Campus on 2400 Clove Drive, San Jose.

    Contact Lloyd Alaban at [email protected] or follow @lloydalaban on Twitter.

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