As Omicron cases increase along with hospitalizations, hospital staff members are pushing through the burnout and the expectation of more patients coming in, especially the unvaccinated.
“Nurses are exhausted, we are starting to see a surge of hospitalizations, PUIs [person under investigation] and COVID-positive patients, and we’re just exhausted," said Catherine Kennedy, California Nurses Association Organizing Committee’s Co-president.
The California Department of Public Health reports 8,032 COVID-19 hospitalizations, an 8% increase compared to the day before.
“We are trying to work through how many patients are there with COVID or because of COVID and those who are incidentally picked up with COVID who are hospitalized for another condition,” explained Dr. Mark Ghaly, Secretary of the California Health and Human Services Agency.
San Luis Obispo County Public Health reports 30 individuals hospitalized with eight in intensive care units (ICU) while Santa Barbara County Public Health has 65 COVID-19 hospitalizations and nine in the ICU.
“More than tripled in the last week for hospitalizations,” said Dr. Thomas Vendegna, Chief Medical Officer at French Hospital Medical Center in San Luis Obispo.
At Cottage Health in Santa Barbara County, the emergency room is no different.
“We’ve gone from 6-10 patients per day at Cottage Health about two weeks ago to today 33 patients in COVID isolation. 32 are COVID positive,” added Dr. Lynn Fitzgibbons, Cottage Health’s Chair of Infectious Diseases
Dr. Ghaly said in a teleconference that CDPH is aware of the statewide staffing shortage and that healthcare workers are calling in sick because they are getting exposed to the virus. Dr. Ghaly added that some hospitals have had to call in staff from other states to make up for those absences.
“It’s making people sick. Not sick enough to go to the hospital, but it is also affecting the workforce," said Dr. Vendegna. “A lot of nurses and other ancillary staff are now getting sick as well and they are calling in sick. Then that is a struggle.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), since March 2020, there have been 808,392 positive cases among healthcare workers.
“It has huge ripple effects through the whole healthcare system. Here at Cottage Health, we are struggling with very difficult decisions regarding elective surgical or non-urgent surgical procedures,” said Dr. Fitzgibbons.
The California Nurses Association is deeply worried about the CDC’s five-day isolation guideline.
“Why do we want healthcare workers coming in after five days and all, be it if they don’t have any symptoms, and they’re not even requiring a test to come back to work that they could still be exposed,” questioned Kennedy. “Why are we doing that? We need to extend protections not weaken them.”
Hospitals are pleading with the community.
“Get vaccinated. If you’re vaccinated, get boosted. Again, mask,” said Kennedy.
Dr. Ghaly said the CDPH is in constant communication with hospitals to make sure they have enough personal protective equipment (PPE) for healthcare workers as well as testing opportunities for community members.
Dr. Ghaly also announced that California will extend its indoor face mask mandate to Feb. 15, 2022.