As the outbreak accelerates even more, due in part to the Thanksgiving holiday (tonight, the greater Sacramento region joins Southern California and the San Joaquin Valley as three of five regions now subject to a regional stay-at-home order), hospitals continue to await much-needed flexibility to ensure they can care not only for the coming surge of COVID-19 patients, but also Californians’ other health needs.
The greatest challenge right now, and in the coming months, will be to manage escalating numbers of people in need of acute care without enough additional clinical staff available to care for patients (there were 30,000 new COVID-19-positive individuals in California on Thursday alone, which — at that rate — will lead to 3,600 more hospitalizations daily).
Health care workers are physically and emotionally drained, and their ranks are thinning due to child care needs, illness, retirement, and more.
No matter what staff and supplies are available, sick people will continue to pour into our hospitals, and Californians are counting on us. A crisis like this requires all the flexibility available to care for those in need.
That’s why it’s essential that the California Department of Public Health provides a quick, reliable means for hospitals to flex the nurse staffing ratios.
The current waiver process, in which hospitals individually submit ratio waivers for review and approval by CDPH surveyors, has in many cases resulted in significant delays for hospitals waiting for approval and does not provide the certainty hospitals need.
As we steel ourselves for the next few weeks and into January, where we will see the impact of the winter holidays, flexibility on these ratios during an unprecedented surge would prove invaluable for hospitals to make real-time adjustments so they can remain, as always, ready to care for those in need.