Nurses upset with Governor Gavin Newsom over nurse-to-patient ratio increase

Hospital (FILE)
Posted at 4:36 PM, Dec 16, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-16 21:35:17-05

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — Several nurses across the state are outraged, following one of Governor Gavin Newsom's latest executive orders, allowing hospitals to increase the number of patients a single nurse will be required to look after, if needed.

Under the order, hospitals can change the ratio from one nurse per to patients, which is standard, to one nurse per three patients.

The order drew heavy backlash from the California Nurses Association, who calls the ratio change dangerous at their Wednesday press conference.

"As an ICU nurse, I can tell you that short staffing is the difference between life and death," John Pasha, a cardiac ICU nurse at Good Samaritan Hospital, said at the conference.
Mawata Kamara, an emergency room nurse at San Leandro Hospital is also upset.

"Everyone's calling us heroes, but our lawmakers are throwing us under the bus," Kamara said.

In Kern County, Dignity Health facilities and Kern Medical tell 23ABC News that they have not changed that ratio, yet.

With a 0% Intensive-Care-Unit capacity, according to the state's Dec. 13 evaluation of Kern County, Terri Church, the Chief Nursing Officer at Bakersfield Memorial Hospital says the ratio change is an option.

"The state will allow us to do that without getting permission right away, which is what we may need to do," Church said. "But that is not our plan for both Mercy or Memorial Hospital. However, we will do what we need to do to take care of patients."

In Kern County, a shortage of nurses has been apparent since the beginning of the pandemic.

During the summer surge, hiring dozens of traveling and registry nurses to help out in the state was critical, for Kern Medical CEO Russel Judd.

But this time around the surge is more widespread in the country and now those nurses are unable to come back, Judd said.

As a result, the nurse-to-patient ratio change, is on the table.

"We're evaluating that right now. Our goal first and foremost is to provide the best care that we can and clearly the more nurses you have to patients the better it is. However, we do have to care for patients. So we are evaluating it, I do anticipate that we do take advantage of that flex."

23ABC News also reached out to Adventist Health Bakersfield, who did not respond.