Hospitals across the Valley face staffing challenges: ‘This surge is going to hurt us’

Coronavirus
February 07 2021 03:30 pm

CENTRAL VALLEY, Calif. (KGPE) – Falling below 15% available ICU capacity as a region is the trigger point for the regional stay-at-home order to be implemented. In the San Joaquin Valley, as of Thursday, it’s at 19.7%, according to the California Department of Public Health. However, Fresno County Interim Health Officer Dr. Rais Vohra said he wouldn’t be surprised if in the next couple of days, the region falls below 15%.

“We’re bracing ourselves that we may get the announcement as early as tomorrow, but obviously we’re taking it day to day and we need people to be prepared,” Vohra said.

ICU capacity is shrinking across the state, but hospital officials in the Central Valley say a significant aspect that needs to be considered is the lack of healthcare personnel to staff those beds.

“Right now I have 18 physical beds. I don’t have eight nurses to take care of 18 more patients if they were a 2-to-1 type ratio. I don’t have eight or nine nurses available with that level of training for a sustained period of time,” said Keri Noeske, the chief nursing officer at Kaweah Delta Medical Center in Visalia.

She said although they have 18 ICU beds without ICU patients, 10 of those beds are being occupied by medical surgical and intermediate critical patients.

“It’s really important that the physical capacity is a piece of it. It’s the staffing that’s even the bigger piece,” Noeske said.

And morale, she says, is low among the healthcare workforce in the hospital.

“Honestly, morale is down. People are, they’re beat up. They’re tired,” she said. “The thank you they want is for it to stop and for them to be able to work in normal conditions and not feel bad if they don’t pick up a fifth shift in the week.”

In addition, some healthcare workers across the region are unable to work due to COVID-19 related reason. As of Friday, 322 healthcare workers within Community Medical Centers were in self-isolation due to testing positive or being exposed, according to Community Medical Centers.

According to the state, there are 11 available ICU beds in Fresno County as of Thursday.

“It behooves all of us to try to prevent the transmission of COVID as mucha as we can because this is really causing some really disturbing trends in the healthcare system right now,” Vohra said.

COVID-19 hospitalizations and ICU admissions continue to increase across the state as health experts say hospitals are still not feeling the effects of Thanksgiving yet.

“This surge is going to hurt us. It’s putting that strain. We’re seeing worse numbers, and I think we’re going to be in a worse situation than we were in July and August,” Noeske said. “It started before we even had a triggering event. It started before Thanksgiving.”

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