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Valley hospitals overwhelmed with staff shortages as Covid cases surge

Coachella Valley hospitals have not been able to catch a break, thanks to the omicron-fueled surge in covid-cases.

“Our biggest challenge is being sure that we have adequate staff in order to care for these patients,” Eisenhower Health's Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Alan Williamson.

Tuesday marked the first time since Feb. 3, 2021 that Riverside County has had more than 900 COVID hospitalizations.

To try and ease the shortage, hospitals nationwide are allowing nurses and other workers infected with the coronavirus to stay on the job if they have mild symptoms or none at all. California health authorities say hospital staff members who test positive but are symptom-free can continue working.

“If we get into a situation of a crisis, where we're really unable to maintain full staffing ratios and care for the patients the way we would like to and need to, that we can start to use infected individuals," Dr. Williamson added.

About 24% of U.S. hospitals are reporting a “critical staffing shortage,” according to data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, as public health experts warn the Covid-19 surge fueled by the Omicron variant threatens the nation’s health care system.

Nationwide, several workers participated in a Covid Day of Action on Thursday to speak out against those new guidelines. Desert Regional workers participated in the rally on Thursday morning.

Desert Regional released this statement:

“The CNA, the labor union that represents our nursing staff, held a COVID Day of Action rally today outside Desert Regional Medical Center as part of a coordinated day of union activities at multiple hospitals across the state and nation.

As hospitals across the state continue to experience nursing shortages, we remain committed to doing everything possible to stay well-staffed. Our focus has been and continues to remain on the excellent care we provide our community as well as providing a safe work environment for our employees.

We deeply appreciate the dedication and professionalism shown by our nurses and other caregivers at Desert Regional Medical Center.”

Riverside County Public Health’s Jose Arballo told News Channel 3 staff workers should be safe as long as they’re wearing the correct protective gear.

“The period in which you're the most infectious is a time when you're symptomatic," Arballo said, "By the time that you're asymptomatic, you're probably less infectious. and then that's when the the ability of the mask to protect others around you will come into play.”

On Thursday, the Supreme Court also blocked the Biden Administration’s “vaccine or test” rule for large businesses.

But the court has allowed the administration’s vaccine mandate for most healthcare workers.

What is the difference if you are vaccinated, but you are positive for Covid versus working for someone who is not vaccinated and they're negative, but they still can't work?

Arballo responded, “I think for from that point of view, you're symptomatic, your symptoms are lessened, your period of time when you're probably infectious is lessened. so i think that's one of the benefits of being vaccinated.”

Health officials are urging the public to get a Covid test from test site to prevent hospitals from being overwhelmed. “You don't want to be the one that makes it even more crowded for something you can do away from the ER. So stay away from the ER that's just to get a test,” said Arballo.

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Samantha Lomibao

Samantha joined KESQ News Channel 3 in May 2021. Learn more about Samantha here here.


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