Nurses applaud as state marks the end of waivers extending safe staffing ratios

Posted at 9:51 PM, Feb 01, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-02 00:52:00-05

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KERO) — After months of working to meet the new allowances of patient-nurse ratios approved by the state, California nurses will soon take a sigh of relief.

The California Department of Public Health announced that as of Monday, the department will no longer accept any new expedited staffing waivers. Furthermore, all existing approved staffing waivers will expire on February 8, unless CDPH determines on an individual waiver basis that there is an unprecedented circumstance.

Hospitals must maintain efforts to meet required staffing levels at all times.

If CDPH has any indication that hospitals have not maintained efforts to increase staffing, CDPH will investigate and require hospitals to provide documentation of their efforts. Additionally, CDPH may do unannounced audits to assess these efforts.

“This is an incredible victory for patients and nurses, because we know that safe staffing saves lives,” said Zenei Triunfo-Cortez, RN and a president of the California Nurses Association and its national organization, National Nurses United.

Bakersfield Memorial Hospital nurse Sandy Reding told 23ABC last week these waivers were harsh for nurses on the floor and could actually be harmful to patients.

"If you stabilize the workload and stabilize the workforce, the nurses will be there every day, day in and day out," she said. "They are anyway, but there's less fatigue and less illness."

Reding said when hospitals resort to these waivers, it actually makes it harder for the hospital to hire additional nurses because of the extreme work environment.

"Nurses are willing to come in if it's not a horrific assignment," she said. "Because they have to recover from the day before."

Hospital officials agree with Reding that nursing staffing has a hot topic since the start of the pandemic, but they say staffing shortages is not due to a lack of trying.

"We are very aggressive in Bakersfield, and we actually rely on our new grads," said Bakersfield Memorial Chief Nursing Officer Terri Church.

Church said that it is true there is a staffing shortage of nurses in Bakersfield, but that's true across the country. According to Church, at any given time there are around 30,000 requests for ICU nurses.

Church continued to say that this is why their efforts to entice nurses to come to Bakersfield have been ongoing, including increasing rates.

"What we're really doing in our country, is we're robbing Peter to pay Paul," said Church.

Bruce Peters, President and CEO at Mercy Hospitals of Bakersfield, said that they've worked to implement nursing students from Bakersfield College and Cal State University Bakersfield to assist with the shortages. Peters said they've brought on students to work as runners and anything hospital staff might need assistance in.