ANAHEIM (CBSLA) – Dozens of nurses were picketing Wednesday morning across Orange County, protesting the deteriorating conditions inside hospitals which have been brought to a breaking point due to the exponential spike in coronavirus cases.
The nurses began picketing at 6 a.m. Wednesday outside Anaheim, Chapman and South Coast Global Medical Centers, as well as the West Anaheim Medical Center.
The number of coronavirus patients hospitalized in Orange County increased to 1,806 Tuesday, a record since the start of the pandemic. The number of patients in ICU beds rose to 390, also a record.
The county's ICU bed availability remains at zero in the "adjusted" metric, and dropped to 7.5% in the unadjusted category. The state created the adjusted metric to reflect the difference in beds available for COVID-19 patients and non-coronavirus patients.
Several hospitals, including UC Irvine Medical Center in Orange, Fountain Valley Regional Hospital and Los Alamitos Medical Center have set up field hospitals in their parking lots to deal with the influx of patients.
On Tuesday, St. Joseph Hospital in Orange converted a dozen NICU beds for adult use.
An ER nurse who works at an O.C. hospital told CBSLA Tuesday night that nurses are working double time, with no breaks and not enough personal protective equipment. He said they are also dealing with increasing patient to nurse ratios that are unsustainable.
"You have an 11, 12-bed emergency room that has 30 patients, 40 patients, and people expiring in the middle of the hallway with nurses running around," said the nurse, who did not want to be identified. "They're trying to help, and they cannot catch up. The number's 6-to-1. Do you think one nurse can serve six people who are saying, 'I cannot breathe?'"
The nurses taking part in the protest are asking their hospital administrators to cancel elective surgeries so they can focus more on COVID-19 patients. They are also asking state health officials to stop granting staffing waivers which increases the number of patients a nurse can be assigned to.
"We are getting slaughtered in the ER. We literally had to do a blood transfusion in the hallway. Ambulances are just leaving their patients in the ER because they are waiting too long for a bed, I don't even know how we can sustain this. Increased ratios mean less care for more patients and elective surgeries means a regular bed that could go to someone we are now holding for hours and days in the ER", said Rasha Tran, a nurse at West Anaheim Medical Center, in a statement through her union, National Nurses United. "We still do not have the proper PPE so the increase in patients only means increased risk for RNs just when we need them the very most."
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