Escalation of COVID-19 patients at St. Mary Medical Center

By Staff Reports

(Apple Valley)– The California Nurses Association union plans to rally Wednesday at St. Mary Medical Center as part of a statewide protest of waivers involving nurse-to-patient ratios, a legal tool that allows hospitals to concentrate nursing care where needed during emergencies.

St. Mary Medical Center, experiencing an unanticipated escalation in COVID-19 cases, has applied for a state waiver in order to shift nurses from other, less busy, units to care for these patients.

California’s hospitals overwhelmingly support the state law on emergency waivers that allows hospitals to temporarily assign nurses to care for more patients than ratios allow under normal circumstances. There is no question the pandemic qualifies as an emergency under the law.

St. Mary is concerned the union’s message will unfairly characterize our hospital and thus our caregivers. Our nurses are saving lives daily and we are doing what we can to get them the relief they need, while working with the state to manage this emergency. We also are engaging nurses who work under contract and acting quickly to fill open positions.

“These are extraordinary times and we are in awe of the tremendous care our nurses and all our caregivers provide to patients who have contracted the virus and for those being treated for other conditions,” said Randall Castillo, St. Mary chief executive. “They are committed and selfless, providing excellence and compassion to patients and families under very stressful conditions. They are the heart and soul of our healing mission.”

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 California’s staffing needs.

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