From SF to Napa, here's why Bay Area hospitals are experiencing overwhelming staffing shortages

Luz Pena Image
Wednesday, January 5, 2022
Bay Area experiencing overwhelming hospital staffing shortage
From San Francisco to Napa County, here's why Bay Area hospitals are experiencing overwhelming staffing shortages.

NAPA, Calif. (KGO) -- An increase in community transmission is impacting hospital capacity throughout the state of California.

"I put this as an analogy," Dr. Karen Relucio, Napa Co. Public Health Officer & Deputy Director said.

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"Pretend you have a car that has 200,000 miles, four bald tires, a puncture in a tire and no spare and yet it's carrying a car-load of people and it has a long way to go. That is our health care system right now. It's not the same capacity now that we had one year ago," Dr. Relucio explained.

In the Bay Area, Napa County is reporting zero ICU beds available.

With only two hospitals in the entire county, Napa already had a limited number of ICU beds, but what's making matters worse is a dramatic staffing shortage fueled by an increase of omicron infections.

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"I'm concerned, mainly because we are seeing our cases increase and we are not even at our peak yet," said Dr. Relucio.

One of the main factors contributing to the staffing shortage is California's law of patient to nurse ratio. One nurse is needed for every two patients in intensive care.

"So you might have 20 ICU beds, but if you only have enough staff to take care of 10 patients, then your capacity is reduced," said Dr. Relucio.

Luz Pena: "what would you say is the main reason Napa County is facing this staffing shortage?"

Dr. Karen Relucio: "One of our hospitals is having COVID cases among their health care providers so when they are put in isolation period they are actually taken out of the workforce temperately until they can go back in again. That is one of the contributing factors, but we are also seeing Winter census when you have people that get hospitalized for other reasons outside of COVID."

RELATED: Omicron surge could be over by February, UCSF doctor predicts

Dr. Chris Colwell, Chief of the Emergency Department at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital, is also reporting an overwhelming shortage with staff members who've been exposed, infected or taking care of an infected family member.

"We are still able to take care of critically ill people and that will always be our primary mission, but where we are really stretched is in our ability to serve for the non-emergency issues that many people need right now," said Dr. Colwell.

Dr. Colwell and his team are having to transfer patients to other floors as they deal with limited staff and bed capacity.

"We have 59 beds in the Emergency Department, at 57, but that's the ones that are fully open. We are now generally running at between 36-44 beds. And often times, that's including patients that were waiting to go upstairs. So they are not available to see acute patient care," said Dr. Colwell.