Traveling nurses arrive as Valley hospitals battle through latest surge

KSEE24 News

FRESNO, Calif. (KSEE) – Hospitals locally are getting help from traveling nurses from all over the country as this latest COVID-19 surge continues to overwhelm Valley hospitals.

Community Medical Centers is receiving the help of 117 travelers.

Fresno County Emergency Medical Services Director Dan Lynch said this is a relief and that hospitals are cautiously optimistic that this could help them get through the surge.

“We fight the fight one day at a time with the hospitals, so we’re going to count this as one of the successes,” Lynch said.

Lynch said many medical staff are in quarantine due to getting COVID-19 or because of exposure, so this will help fill that gap. In addition, Lynch said they will help staff open beds and add additional surge beds.

For the last several weeks, hospitals have been operating at or over capacity.

“Today our Level 1 trauma center is running at 110%. Its sister facility in Clovis is at 140% capacity. We’re operating at a disaster level,” Lynch said.

“We have a hospital down south in our four counties that has an 18-bed emergency department holding 25 patients that are admitted to the hospital. That means there’s no emergency room capacity. That’s the disaster level we’re in,” Lynch added.

At Saint Agnes Medical Center, Chief Nursing Officer Deanette Sisson said they have 80 travelers and they’re waiting on more.

Sisson said the hospital works with national agencies to get more staff as the demand for nurses nationwide remains high. The funding also comes from the hospital.

But the need for traveling nurses is urgent as the surge is making it harder for hospitals to care for other day-to-day illnesses.

“They’re essential to the volumes of patients that we have right now,” Sisson said. “We’re very full. Really at capacity for patients in beds and it is causing some longer stays in our emergency department for patients that are being admitted than we would want.”

Sisson said they’re already busy caring for other non-related COVID-19 illnesses in the emergency room. But having the additional 100 or more COVID-19 patients has pushed them.

“Other patients are really sick too, so between that additional 100 that we might not see if we weren’t in COVID, plus all of the other really sick patients, it has just pushed us. We’re at about capacity on a daily basis,” Sisson said.

And for the traveling nurses, they’re ready to help.

“If we can save two lives, it’s worth it,” said Sheila Zinentah, a registered nurse originally from North Carolina who will now be helping at CRMC.

“I lost one of my closest friends to COVID when it all started and my only uncle when it all started. It touches me a little different because I don’t want to see anyone go through what me and my family went through,” said Cydni Strong, a registered nurse in the ICU originally from Michigan who will be helping at CRMC

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