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UC San Diego nurses demand action for safe patient care

Registered nurses at UC San Diego call on the University of California to staff for safe patient care.

SAN DIEGO COUNTY, Calif. — Wednesday marks a call of action for nurses around the country, including San Diego. UC San Diego nurses are renewing a call for safe patient care, especially in this COVID-19 pandemic.

Registered nurses at UC San Diego Medical Center in Hillcrest held a press conference Wednesday to call on the University of California (UC) to staff for safe patient care and stop elective surgeries, according to the California Nurses Association/National Nurses United (CNA/NNU)

Due to the pandemic, UCSD nurses said they are caring for many sick patients, which means they need more nurses to care for them. They said the state’s safe staffing law is not only about how many patients a nurse is assigned, but also about acuity, how sick a patient is.

“Since the start of this pandemic, nurses have been struggling to provide the highest quality of patient care despite very difficult circumstances,” said ICU RN Shannon Cotton. “The patients are getting sicker and sicker, and the pressure on the bedside nurse can be overwhelming. I work in the dedicated Covid ICU at UCSD, and we are already stretched beyond our limits. We are tired. I don’t know how we could look after more extremely sick patients effectively. I hate to even think about how worse nurse-to-patient ratios would affect our patients’ outcomes in irreparable ways.”

Nurses also decry cuts to staffing made by management in the middle of a pandemic.

“It’s not just Covid patients we are concerned about,” said RN Anna Sindelar. “Management has cut support staff in various units who help us perform basic care for patients. Without them, we now have patients who have waited days to get a bath, or had important diagnostic tests delayed because there was not enough staff scheduled to help with transporting patients to our diagnostic units. Meanwhile, we hear of nurses being cancelled and sent home in other units because they aren’t needed there. The University of California is supposed to be the premier research university system in the state, with cutting-edge teaching hospitals. This is just wrong.”

On Wednesday, a spokesperson for UC San Diego Health released the following statement:

"UC San Diego Health has been a leading COVID-19 care provider locally and statewide since the pandemic began. Patient care – and care for members of our community – has been and remains our first priority. UC San Diego Health has taken an enhanced, comprehensive and innovative approach to protect patients and employees using multiple, overlapping measures guided by the best scientific evidence and public health authorities. These measures ensure best practices are in place. We are extremely proud of the exceptional care and service provided to our patients and the community by our dedicated team of physicians, nurses and staff. UC San Diego Health has maintained appropriate and safe staffing ratios throughout the pandemic. We recognize that extreme situations elsewhere have prompted other health care facilities to seek additional tools to continue safe, effective care of their patients. However, UC San Diego Health has not applied for a staffing ratio waiver, and with the partnership of our community to remain masked and maintain social distancing practices, we hope to get through the pandemic without applying for this option. At UC San Diego Health, we have invited 100 percent of our health care workers to be vaccinated. More than 10,000 employees have received their first dose and more than 6,000 have received their second dose. Moreover, in partnership with the County of San Diego and others, we have vaccinated to date more than 57,000 community members at the Petco Vaccination Super Station. With the continuing rollout of vaccines and improved public health and treatment protocols, we hope—like everyone—that we have entered the beginning of the end of the pandemic. Until then, we will strive through the tireless work of our team members to keep our patients safe, as well as those who care for them and fulfill our mission to deliver unparalleled service to our community."

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