UCLA Health President talks about COVID-19 challenges with CNN’s Don Lemon

Johnese Spisoo on CNN's Don Lemon
Johnese Spisso on CNN's Don Lemon

Johnese Spisso, President of UCLA Health and CEO of UCLA Hospital System, was a live guest during a special report on CNN Tonight with Don Lemon on Sunday, March 22, 2020. She was asked about the challenges health care systems are facing during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Spisso said: "We've had to work really hard to create additional surge space. We have to keep in mind when this virus came into our cities, we were already dealing with hospitals that were really crowded and full. We had to take active measures to try to create capacity, setting up tents outside our emergency department where we could expand care."

As a Level 1 Trauma Center, the UCLA Westwood Medical Center Emergency Department is in a continual state of preparedness and conducts regular emergency drills.

In the past few weeks, UCLA Health has taken many pro-active steps to prepare for a surge in patients with COVID-19 including erecting tents outside the ER where patients with symptoms of fever and cough can be evaluated. This separates those patients from the general hospital population and also protects clinical teams.

UCLA Health has increased COVID-19 testing capacity at primary care sites and has set up a remote testing facility which can accommodate hundreds of tests a day.

"At UCLA Health, we were one of the first to begin doing our own COVID-19 tests a few weeks ago, but we were limited to do under about 100 a day," said Spisso. "By next week, we should be doing 300-400 a day."

UCLA Health's more than 180 clinics around Southern California are also responding to the coronavirus pandemic by offering increased access to telemedicine visits.

When asked by Lemon what the UCLA Hospital System needs right now, Spisso replied: "Most of all right now we need just continued support and encouragement for our brave healthcare workers that are fighting this on the frontline…if your viewers can see them every day I think people would be really inspired about the kind and compassionate care that is taking place."

There are several ways the public can help during the pandemic. There is an urgent need for blood and platelet donations: uclahealth.org/gotblood.

UCLA Health also has set up a COVID-19 Patient Care Fund and a Research and Education Fund. For more information go to: uclahealth.org/giving/covid-19-philanthropic-support.

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