The California Nurses Association union plans to rally Wednesday, August 5 at St. Joseph Hospital in Eureka as part of a statewide protest of waivers involving nurse-to-patient ratios, a legal tool that allows hospitals to adjust nurse staffing in order to respond to patient need in the midst of a declared emergency.
St. Joseph Hospital has continued to meet the standard nurse staffing ratios and has not sought such a waiver and is concerned the union’s message will confuse the community about the quality of patient care. The hospital is also concerned the union’s message will unfairly characterize hospitals where escalations of patients with COVID-19 are stretching nursing teams, and shifting personnel is necessary to provide the best level of care.
“Our nurses have been incredibly resilient, and I couldn’t be prouder of their response to this pandemic and their commitment to continuing all types of healthcare for our community. They continue to give their all for our patients and their families,” said Roberta Luskin-Hawk, MD, Chief Executive for St. Joseph Health, Humboldt County. “We are fortunate at this point that we have been able to continue to meet the care demands of our patients, but every hospital across the nation knows that can change quickly.”
California’s hospitals overwhelmingly support the state law on emergency waivers that allows hospitals to temporarily assign nurses to care for more patients than California ratios allow under normal circumstances. There is no question the pandemic qualifies as an emergency under the law.
According to the California Hospital Association, the pandemic has strained the state’s health care workforce with surges that can be “intense, sudden and unpredictable.” COVID-19 patients require additional care and time, with a higher proportion requiring intensive care, further straining the critical care workforce.
Nationwide staff shortages mean that every hospital in need of additional health care workers is tapping into the same nursing registries, making it impossible to meet all of California’s staffing needs without some flexibility.
“We urge the union to reconsider its plan in light of the tone it will set at a time when it is essential we focus on coming together as a community” said Luskin-Hawk.
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