‘It eats at you morally’: Arcadia nurses demand more staffing to care for patients amid COVID-19 surge

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Dozens of nurses staged a socially distant protest outside the Methodist Hospital of Southern California in Arcadia on Saturday to demand more staffing as they struggle to care for patients during a COVID-19 surge.

Each nurse has gone from having to closely watch four patients at a time to six, said Kelly Coulston, a cardiac nurse.

“I’m not out here today because I’m tired and I’m overworked and I’m scared,” she said. “I’m out here because the public needs to know what’s going on. The families trust us with their family members, and as a nurse, it eats at you morally when you feel like you can’t give the best care that you want to give, that you’re trained to give, because of these staffing ratios.”

Angelo Bovo, a registered nurse, said he had to take care of six patients, which is more than the usual number of patients he’s assigned to take care of during his round.

“Before I could even finish rounding on all of them, one of them flat-lined and we had to perform CPR and resuscitate her,” Bovo told KTLA 5 News. “If I had my usual ratio that could’ve been prevented.”

According to California Nurses Association/National Nurses United union, the Methodist Hospital of Southern California is using a state waiver to go around nurse-to-patient staffing standards.

“By the mere submission of a form, hospitals can require nurses in intensive care units and throughout the hospital setting to unsafely care for more patients at one time,” the union said.

But the hospital in the San Gabriel Valley, just like others in the state, is facing an “incredible” demand in care along with a significant shortage of nurses, said a statement from the center’s chief strategy officer, Clifford Daniels.

“We have still been able to provide care for all patients,” Daniels said.

Coulston, however, argued that hospital management has not done its part to ease the load on health care workers.

“We’ve had a year to come up with solutions,” Coulston said. “Nurses have been providing solutions, and management has not been sitting down to speak and come up with the safe interventions to help with this.”

Daniels responded later in the day, saying that Methodist Hospital is like other hospitals in Southern California and “experiencing a strikingly high demand for hospital services as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic; well above what is typical or normal.”

“As a result, the hospital faces a severe shortage of available nurses, caused not only by current extraordinary demand, but also by a high number of nurse call-offs,” Daniels stated. “Methodist Hospital is aggressively pursuing every potential source to find and schedule qualified nurses, including, but not limited to, shift incentives for existing staff, the national guard, registry, and travelers, often at extraordinary cost.”

As of New Year’s Eve, when the state last updated its database, only 324 ICU beds were available in L.A. County. About 10 million people live in the region.

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