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California nurses push back against new nurse to patient ratios during Covid-19 pandemic

Gov. Newsom's administration is allowing waivers for hospitals to increase patient load in ICU units

CALIFORNIA, USA — As San Joaquin County hit another grim record of 328 patients admitted for COVID-19 in the past 24 hours with nine who died, nurses across California are letting the public know they are against treating more patients per nurse.

"It's not the time to be decreasing the nurses that are available to help these patients," said Richelle Harig, a nurse with 10 years experience practicing at Rideout Memorial Hospital in Marysville. "The higher ratio doesn't help the patients. Instead this policy focuses on the unsafe ways for the hospital to make a buck." 

Harig participated in a Zoom news conference today by the California Nurses Association (CNA).

The CNA wanted the public to know that lower staffing levels "during COVID will lead to more death and suffering."

Last week, Governor Gavin Newsom's administration began granting nurse-to-patient waivers to hospitals that include ICU's.

Newsom said staffing the state's number one challenge. If granted, hospitals getting the waiver can treat three patients per nurse versus two. 

"That is why California nurses are adamantly opposed to handing the California hospital industry a gift that will surely increase the number of infections and increase the number of deaths," said Zenei Cortez, president of the CNA and National Nurses United.

So far, more than 59,000 healthcare workers in California have been infected with COVID-19, according to the CNA. 228 have died.

In response to the nurse's pointed comments, the California Hospital Association issued a statement saying the accusations are "false" and "irresponsible."

The CHA said "there is a serious shortage of critical care nurses," and that the "current crisis is three times larger than COVID-19's earlier surge this past summer.

It adds that the state has granted a "temporary variance from nurse staffing levels" only in units with COVID-19 patients.

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