UCSD Health ER nurses decry overcrowding as hospital sees ‘unprecedented’ demand

Emergency room nurses at UC San Diego Health’s La Jolla Hospital held a rally to highlight what they said were unsafe and overcrowded conditions as the health care system grapples with a surge in patients.

UCSD Health nurses from the California Nurses Association pleaded for more staff and resources Thursday outside the emergency room at Jacobs Medical Center.

“This is not the care we want for our patients or for our own families,” said Estefania Urbano, emergency room nurse at UCSD Health.

Urbano said she was concerned about long wait times and the treatment of patients in the hallways, especially those who may be immunocompromised.

“It’s humiliating for patients and, above all, an infectious risk for others,” Urbano said.

UCSD Health officials said they have been very busy – seeing a historically high number of patients.

“Like hospitals across California, UC San Diego Health is currently experiencing unprecedented demand for its medical and surgical care — a need that exceeds available hospital beds,” said a UCSD spokesperson sent by E-mail. “The impact is most visible in our emergency services.”

The statement also said the hospital system is taking all possible measures to care for patients, which sometimes means using overflow areas or even diverting ambulances due to demand.

“I haven’t seen anything like it,” said Jocelyn Belleza, a UCSD Health emergency room nurse who has worked in the system for 20 years. “It gradually got worse to the point where we now have to get up and demand more attention.”

Belleza and others said the situation is not sustainable.

“There’s a big increase in burnout when you have no support and there’s a lot of low morale among staff,” Belleza said.

March was a particularly busy month at UCSD Health’s La Jolla campus. There have been two instances where an “internal disaster” has been declared, meaning ambulances are unable to bring patients. San Diego County officials said the internal disaster declarations occurred March 2 for about 10 p.m. and March 7 for 6 p.m.

Emergency room nurses and the union that represents them are calling for more nurses and other support staff. They said that management had given extra help, but it hadn’t been enough.

“All my colleagues and staff are trying our best to do our jobs, but at the same time we need space, we need equipment – ​​all the support we can get from management,” said Maria Tan, UCSD Health nurse and union representative. .

UCSD Health isn’t the only hospital system with busy emergency departments. Scripps Health officials said they are dealing with higher numbers of emergency room patients and recently opened a 16-bed facility at Scripps Mercy in Chula Vista to meet demand.

“We need the county’s help in placing our patients in skilled nursing facilities and behavioral health facilities, as well as reducing ambulance traffic from emergency rooms to alternate care sites for patients. patients who do not need the high level of care provided in the emergency room. said Dr. Ghazala Sharieff, chief medical officer at Scripps Health.

Sharieff said the moves would help transfer patients from the emergency room to other areas of the hospital and thus reduce pressure. Sharp HealthCare officials also said their emergency departments had seen an increase in patients.

“Both walk-in customers and patients who come in through physicians,” Sharp spokesman John Cihomsky said. “While this increase has strained San Diego’s EMS (emergency medical services) systems, Sharp has maintained established quality and safety standards and appropriate nurse-patient ratios to ensure emergency care of high quality.”

Kaiser Permanente San Diego officials said so far this year, patient volume has increased about 7% from last year.

“Wait times are – generally – the same with (the) vast majority of patients seen within the hour,” said Jennifer Dailard, spokeswoman for Kaiser San Diego.

UCSD Health officials said when possible, they add additional nurses to relieve the pressure. They also want to remind the public that minor health issues can be treated with same-day visits to urgent care or even telehealth conferences.

UCSD Health ER nurses decry overcrowding as hospital sees ‘unprecedented’ demand

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