On Thursday, January 13, healthcare workers rallied outside the Los Alamitos Medical Center, part of a National Nurses United (NNU) national day of action, to speak out against working conditions and hold employers accountable. Particularly in California, they condemn the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) decision that allows asymptomatic health care workers who test positive for Covid-19 and have been exposed to the virus but are asymptomatic return to work without isolation or testing.
“People come to the hospital sick, our nurses and staff are getting sick, and the hospital is not providing the extra support we need,” said Ginny Gary, a registered nurse at the Los Alamitos Medical Center. “This hurts our patients, and at the end of the day, it is all about our patients.”
Thursday’s rally emphasized that two years into the pandemic, the United States is not experiencing a “nursing shortage,” but a scarcity of healthcare workers willing to risk their lives.
Thursday’s rally emphasized that two years into the pandemic, the United States is not experiencing a “nursing shortage,” but a scarcity of healthcare workers willing to risk their lives. In addition, they do not want to lose their license or threaten the safety of their patients by working in unsafe conditions enforced on them by the profit-driven system. “One of the hallmarks of the Omicron variant is fatigue, so having workers come back within days from having it does not make sense,” said Ginny.
From October to December 2021, NNU surveyed thousands of registered nurses across the country to understand the complete picture of the situation. 82.5 percent answered that at least half of their shifts were unsafely staffed. In addition, studies have proven that when nurses are assigned too many patients to care for safely, “the patients are at an increased risk of preventable medical errors, avoidable complications, increased length of stay, readmissions, and even death.” Of course, the patients are not the only ones hurt when nurses are overworked, but nurses also suffer from moral distress and job dissatisfaction when appointed too many patients, studies show. As a result, 68 percent of nurses who responded to the NNU survey said they have considered leaving their job.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that if you are fully vaccinated with the boost, you isolate for five days, contingent on the outcome of your test. However, with the surge in cases, that guidance has been waived in California. As of Wednesday, Covid-positive patients in Los Angeles County are close to 4,000. The alarming part is the number of intensive care patients spiked from 513 on Tuesday to 536 Wednesday.
On December 28, the National Nurses United (NNU) condemned the Biden administration's move that took away protections from health care workers and the public. “Nurses have fought since day one of this pandemic for protections based on science and the precautionary principle,” said NNU President Zenei Triunfo-Cortez, RN. Health care workers are not only battling a deadly virus, but now a system that is putting them in danger. “Let’s be clear: This is about what’s good for business, not what’s good for public health,” said Triunfo-Cortez.
“Nursing is a patient-first profession,” said Norwin Hoelsher, a Los Alamitos Medical Center registered nurse. This rally was one of four that was organized by the National Nurses United in Southern California, the largest and fastest-growing union of registered nurses in the United States with more than 175,000 members nationwide. Rallies were held at California Hospital Medical Center and Good Samaritan Hospital in Los Angeles, St. Bernardine Medical Center in San Bernardino, and the Los Alamitos Medical Center. “Employers have prioritized profits over safe patient care. They cut corners on safe staffing since long before Covid,” said Triunfo-Cortez. “With the pandemic still in full swing, they are driving desperately needed nurses away from the profession.”
Certified Nursing Assistants and Registered nurses rallied at 8 am Thursday, holding signs that read “staff up for safe care.” People that drove by honked their horns in support of the rally. “It was nice seeing the support of our community,” said Ginny. On January 13, nurses showed that they were organized and willing to fight back.