California Nurses Demonstrate Outside Hospitals As COVID Crisis Worsens
In California. The Corona virus crisis is triggering a battle between hospitals and the state's powerful nurses union. Hospitals run out of staff. The state is asking nurses to take care of more patients at once than they normally would watering down the union's most sacrosanct job protection. A nurse to patient ratio law that so far exists on Lee in California. KQED s health correspondent April de Bosque reports. Normally telemetry. Nurses take care of four patients at once. But now that the governor has relaxed the state's ratio law Norris a black has to keep track of six were given 50% more patients, and we're expected to do 50% more things. With the same amount of time Her patients are sick. Many of them are in the hospital for a stroke or heart attack, and they have coveted black is terrified of missing something or making a mistake. You know, I go home, and I feel like I could have done more. Oh, I could have done this for them. I could have done that for them. But there just wasn't enough time. In recent weeks, the state has excused 170 hospitals from the normal ratio, rules and nurses have taken to the streets in socially distant protests like this one in San Bernadino. Carrying signs that say ratios save lives. They accused hospitals of putting profits over preparing for a surge of lying nurses off over this summer than not hiring or training enough for winter. It seems that the hospitals have been more reactive. Than proactive in their staffing in California's current surge four times as many people are testing positive for the virus compared to the summer peak up to 7000 new patients could be coming to California hospitals every day. That's according to Carmela Coyle, the head of the state's Hospital association. She says. There's no way around the math. We are simply out of nurses out of doctors out of respiratory therapists. Coyle says hospitals have tried to hire contract nurses, but because California's surged early during the summer and other parts of the United States then surged afterwards. Those travel nurses are taken, she says. The change to the ratios is saving lives, and we cannot in the crisis of this proportion, buying nurses and doctors hands with red tape. Coyle says hospitals next step is to try team nursing pulling nurses from the operating room, for example, to help with covert patients. UC San Francisco economics professor joins Spitz says hospitals should have started training for this over the summer, but they didn't either because of costs or excessive optimism. California was doing so well and that we kind of got it under control, and I think there was a lot of belief that we would be able to maintain that spent says the nurses union has reason to be defensive of the ratio law. It took 10 years before it passed the Legislature in 1999, then several more to clear the court challenges, including one from then Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger as some rally where they were protesting. He made some offhand comment about kicking the nurses but because I'm always kicking death, but that's why they don't like me, which really hardened the opposition to him. Nurses prevailed in the court of public opinion and law, but the battle has made them fiercely protective of ratios. They've even accused hospitals of using the pandemic to try to roll them back for good. Hospitals denied this, and Spence says it's unlikely to go in and say Oh, you clearly did so well without ratios when we let you wave them, So let's just eliminate them entirely, I think would be just adding insult to moral injury to nurses. The public can see that nurses are overworked and burned out by the pandemic spent says there will be little appetite to cut back their job protections once it's over.