Written by Breanna Hardy
Hospitals across the country are struggling to stay staffed as Omicron sweeps through. In response, officials are preparing to allow health care practitioners to work while Covid-positive after the California Department of Public Health granted permission to do so.
Fresno County’s Covid-19 cases are up by 1,916 just since last week – not including the cases that aren’t reported to the county via home test results.
Dr. Rais Vohra, interim director for the Fresno County Department of Public Health, said that roughly one in 10 health care workers are out of commission due to catching Covid-19.
Though it’s expected the surge could peak in a couple weeks, Vohra shared his concern that if the general public is not vigilant to take precautionary measures, the Valley could see a plateau as it saw with the Delta variant.
The state’s public health department has alleviated hospital staffing shortages by allowing Covid-positive, asymptomatic health care workers to care for Covid-positive patients. And while it’s recommended the sick care for the sick, it’s not always possible to keep ill workers away from healthy patients.
Like most hospitals in the Central Valley, Community Health System is doing its best to keep staff and patients safe while operating on a skeleton staff.
“Community Health System’s priority is keeping patients and staff safe. Any employee who is experiencing symptoms from COVID-19 or any other viruses will not return to work until their symptoms have been resolved. We are using the CDPH guidelines in the All Facilities Letter to cautiously return asymptomatic employees (who have tested positive) back to work, in order to continue to meet the care needs of our community,” said Dr. Thomas Utecht, senior Vice President and system chief medical officer for Community Health System.
“Hospitals across the nation are in a tough spot – period. Staffing shortages are impacting all areas of our system as well as the other hospitals in our region. The surge has affected team members across our system, while at the same time, we are experiencing a rapid increase in the number of patients seeking care,” said Utecht.
State-employed nurses and travel nurses are helping to alleviate the thin staff among hospitals.
Saint Agnes Medical Center has more than 250 staff members out due to Covid, which directly impacts the ability to care for patients.
Kelley Sanchez, spokesperson for Saint Agnes, said that if staff members are symptomatic, they should stay home. “But at a time like now, with increasing numbers of patients needing our care, we can’t afford for someone who is well to stay home just to wait and see if they develop symptoms,” she said, referring to those who have been exposed to the virus.
“Ultimately, we are trying to take care of our community and do everything within our power to safely keep services operational, and at the same time, keep our colleagues safe,” Sanchez said.