SAN JOSE, Calif. - Recently scores of nurses rallied outside hospitals in multiple cities around the state.
"These nurses have been running like a marathon, only to ask them to sprint at the end is unreasonable," said Allan Kamara, the president of the Santa Clara County Registered Nurses Professional Association.
Kamara said he believes the issues are staffing and patient-to-nurse ratios.
In a tweet on Tuesday, the National Nurses United urged its followers to write the state’s health department. The union and others want to end Gov. Gavin Newsom’s waivers that allow hospitals to increase nurse-to-patient ratios in intensive care units.
Currently, California is the only state that limits the ratio to one-to-two. Under the pandemic-fueled waiver, hospitals can apply to have the ratio increased to one-to-three.
"Nurses can only do so much with patients at a time. And that’s why the ratios are important. The fewer the patients a nurse has, the more care they can provide," said Eric Conrad, the interim chief nursing officer at Dominican Hospital in Santa Cruz.
Some experts warn that increasing both the workload and ratios could make matters worse.
"The evidence suggests that there’s a correlation between having higher staffing ratios and improved patient care in terms of quality of care," said Dr. Karl Minges, chairman of the University of New Haven’s Department of Health Administration & Policy. "Reducing the number of staff that are caring for patients can compromise care." Added Kamara, "If that’s your loved one, would you want somebody who can just run from one room with PPE into your loved one’s room? The answer is no."
At a Wednesday afternoon news conference, Santa Clara County officials put the burden of improving conditions for nurses on the shoulders of the public.
"We really urge all residents in the county to be staying at home to the greatest extent possible. Avoiding nonessential activities, and really following the public health orders," said James Williams, the Santa Clara County counsel.
With the public weary from seemingly endless health orders and nurses stretched thin by more patients and little help, the calls for relief from the state could grow louder in the coming weeks.