Hospitals struggling with COVID-related staffing shortages, asks public for help

A press release from Kaweah Health

While the largest acute care hospital in Tulare County has yet to see the impact of the Omicron variant on its hospitalizations, the rate at which it is spreading in the community is impacting Kaweah Health’s ability to staff its hospital.

“Omicron is highly contagious and highly transmissible and it’s disabling workforces, not just ours, but everyone we rely on,” said Keri Noeske, Vice President and Chief Nursing Officer at Kaweah Health. “We’re asking everyone – our community and our staff – to be careful out there. Please exercise good practices – wear masks, get fully vaccinated, wash your hands, stay six feet apart from others. Anything we can do to prevent the spread in the community will help valley hospitals with staffing.”

Today, Kaweah Health had 201 of its employees out on COVID-related leaves – that’s up from 82 employees four days ago (Jan. 3) and up from 33 employees the week prior (Dec. 27). Kaweah Health is at 104 percent hospital occupancy with 40 COVID-19 positive patients, including two pediatric patients; four of those COVID-19 patients are in the ICU. This week last year, on Jan. 5, 2021, Kaweah Health Medical Center cared for 169 COVID-19 patients, its highest number of COVID-19 patients to date.

Kaweah Health is just one of a number of Central Valley hospitals currently struggling with staffing shortages as a result of Omicron’s rapid spread in the community. Many hospitals fear that as local COVID-19 positivity percentages catch up with the State’s positivity percentage of 21 percent, hospitalizations will increase as will the number of hospital staff on COVID-related leaves.

“Our health system has never stopped being impacted since the pandemic started,” Noeske said noting that throughout the pandemic, many people delayed care and medical appointments and are now in need of hospitalization for more severe illnesses. “We still have plenty of patients here that need us to take care of them and this rapid increase of positive cases among our staff is troublesome.”

Nationwide, the pandemic has also fueled the nursing shortage as the demand for nurses and bedside care has rapidly increased in step with hospitalizations. Nurses have left the profession or taken positions at other hospitals. On Friday, Kaweah Health had more than 150 open nursing positions.

Kaweah Health shares COVID-19 information and regular updates with the community on its website at www.kaweahhealth.org/COVID19 and on its social media accounts.

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