Staffing Shortage amid Omicron Surge: The Lesser of Two Evils

Written by T. Logan Dayne

Members of the California Nurses Association are scheduled to hold rallies in part due to a new California state rule. Amid rising Omicron cases, California has allowed COVID-positive asymptomatic employees to keep working in facilities with critical staffing shortage. Hospitals in dire need of workers are faced with this challenge of letting those who show no symptoms of COVID to continue to work. Dr. Robert Kim-Farley, a UCLA fielding school of public health epidemiologist is reported saying, “Is it the lesser of two evils…having no one to care for patients, versus having staff caring for them that may have COVID? Yes, it’s the lesser of two evils.”

Nurses are not satisfied with this rule despite it meaning more pressure on a system that’s already near it’s breaking point. Nurses are demanding safe staffing levels and stronger workplace protections along with a denouement of this rule. Dr. Ileana Mesa, nurse practitioner at Los Angeles County-USC Hospital, criticized the state rule saying, “[The rule] means you’re coming into the facility without the virus and may contract the virus. This is not a way to drive this pandemic down.” This would mean less staffing and may prove detrimental to those in need of life saving procedures including lung transplant and brain surgery. 

This all compounds a nationwide blood shortage spurred on by lockdowns and the pandemic. It has become such a crisis that the American Red Cross is attempting to rally donors with Super Bowl tickets after a Los Angeles trauma center closed as a result of the shortage. It was the first time such an action had been taken in over 30 years. New state rules are projected to come regarding nursing homes and other facilities as the state struggles to get out at-home testing and testing- results back to its citizens.

Photo Cred: California Health & Human Services