Nurses at SF General say they are understaffed, under trained for coronavirus

Some nurses at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital say they are too understaffed and undertrained to handle a coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. It is the only level one trauma center in the city.

But some veteran emergency room nurses worry the hospital is not ready for a coronavirus epidemic.

"We are ill equipped," said Christa Duran, who has been an ER nurse for the past four years.

She says she hasn't received nearly enough training or instruction on how she should handle an influx of coronavirus patients. If they should come.

"We need to know from beginning to end in an algorithm if a patient walks in if they need to be intubated, this is what we are going to do. This is where they are actually going to go. You have to have  team. We don't," she said.

She also said she hasn't been told even basic information.

"I cannot tell you where the disaster supplies are in our emergency department where I work," said Duran.

Duran was among a group of nurses who rallied in front of city hall before taking their concerns to the board of supervisors general audit and oversight committee.

"If I haven't been trained in months or years on personal protective equipment for decontamination, or how to run the department when I don't have enough staff, I can't focus on the care," said nurse Heather Bollinger. 

The nurses said the hospital needs to increase staffing levels and that it takes on average seven months to hire a nurse.

"If we get in a situation where we have to self-quarantine and it takes seven months to hire someone we are going to be in an ultra-crisis mode.

"We need to be ready for this crisis and today we are not ready for this crisis," said San Francisco Supervisor Ahsha Safai.

But nurses said San Francisco is not alone. National Nurses United, the nurses' union, rallied in Oakland complaining that a national survey showed that many hospitals have no plans for an outbreak or safety standards to protect health care workers.

In San Francisco, Mayor London Breed issued a statement saying, "Our health system is prepared to deliver care to everyone in need and provide a coordinated response as additional cases of the novel coronavirus are confirmed."