Hospitals’ double whammy: more patients, fewer workers

The USC Medical Center in Los Angeles, a major California hospital. (Photo: TonelsonProductions, via Shutterstock)

Last year during the winter’s peak, hospitals in the state had an estimated 54,000 patients, with roughly 22,000 of them testing Covid positive. Today, similar numbers reflect the hospitals’ overcrowding.

 But now, there is an overall 20 percent reduction in health care workers, and the combination of the two has compounded the stress on hospitals and their staffs.

Some workers are infected themselves and others may be stressed and overworked, but for whatever reason, the number of health care workers has started to plummet at hospitals statewide as the omicron wave takes hold.

“I just white knuckle it and try to plan a vacation to look forward to when the wave breaks,” Rachel Hroncich, a hospital pharmacist in Los Angeles, told the New York Times

With over eight million Covid cases state-wide, this pandemic has taken its toll on California, complicated by the rapid spreading of the Omicron variant, with hospitals statewide facing the brunt of the impact.

Health officials urge people to mask up and get vaccinated, and to avoid going to emergency rooms unless they really need to.

“Don’t go to the ER to test for covid. Preserve resources for those truly in need,” says Carmela Coyle, CEO of the California Hospital Association, which represents about 400 hospitals and health systems in California.

Recently, Sacramento County broke its record for coronavirus hospitalizations, reporting nearly 550 COVID-positive patients in hospital beds on a single day.

Earlier, the California Hospital Association projected a tripling of cases by the end of this month. On the plus side, they also believed it would blow over as well after four-to-six weeks.

School’s have also been hit hard with this new variant. At one school, The Met Sacramento, so many students were testing positive that even the worker in charge of administering the test caught covid.

Schools statewide are being infested with the virus and many teachers are having to call out.

On Jan. 12, Gov. Gavin Newsom passed an executive order that allows some parents to become substitute teachers.

With the executive order, applications to the Commission on Teacher Credentialing will no longer be required although the “basic skills requirement“ will be needed to apply for a substitute teaching position.

Sacramento Unified School district recently announced they have a two-phase plan to give all students N95 or KF94  masks by Feb. 4. Meanwhile, the state’s Department of Public Health recently announced that the state is sending roughly 330,000 BinaxNow antigen tests to skilled nursing facilities all around the state.

Editor’s Note: Uriel Espinoza-Pacheco is a Capitol Weekly intern from The Met Sacramento.

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