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PIH Health objects to housing homeless at DoubleTree Hotel (UPDATED)

This story has been updated with a comment from Supervisor Janice Hahn.

WHITTIER — A proposal to house up to 200 homeless residents at the DoubleTree Hotel in Whittier is drawing pushback from PIH Health, which is using the hotel to temporarily house doctors and medical staff. 


The hospital is using the DoubleTree to isolate more than 85 doctors, nurses, respiratory technicians and other staff working in COVID-19 units at PIH’s Whittier hospital. 


“We have heard reports that the Whittier DoubleTree is going to be housing 200 homeless people during this pandemic,” James West, president and CEO of PIH Health, wrote in a letter to Mayor Joe Vinatieri. “Although this is a noble idea, housing them with physicians and clinical staff who are working with the most critically ill in the hospital is not a compatible arrangement.”


PIH employees will move out of the hotel if the homeless move in, West said. 


“Many of our healthcare professionals have told us that they will not relocate to another hotel further away from the hospital, and would choose instead to not work on the COVID-19 units,” West wrote. “This will potentially lead to staffing shortages at a time when we are seeing an increase in patients with catastrophic illness.”


Reached by phone, Vinatieri said he wasn’t immediately able to comment on PIH’s letter. 


L.A. County has launched an aggressive campaign to temporarily house the homeless in local hotels to help stop the spread of coronavirus. The City of Norwalk voted Tuesday to prevent hotels from taking in homeless or COVID-19 patients without city council approval, prompting threats of a lawsuit from the county.

On Friday, Supervisor Janice Hahn issued the following statement in response to PIH Health’s concerns: 


“Our doctors and nurses are heroes and we are depending on them more than ever. I have heard their concerns about housing homeless individuals in the same hotel where they are also staying and are trying to address them. But, if the doctors and nurses are ultimately not satisfied with our safety measures, then I will ask the State to look for 200 rooms elsewhere.”


The proposed safety measures include: 

Separate floors for doctors and nurses and the homeless clients.
Separate entrances for both groups.
Separate elevators.

 

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