SAN DIEGO (KGTV)- On Tuesday, approximately 702 employees with Scripps Health were out on unscheduled time off, many sick with COVID-19, creating more challenges for the busy healthcare system.
“My Employee Health Department told me this morning that they’re getting calls of six to eight employees per hour that are calling in and saying they’re newly diagnosed with COVID,” said Chris Van Gorder, Scripps Health CEO and President.
The hospital system is asking community members to stop flooding its emergency departments or urgent care for COVID-19 testing if they are asymptomatic or have mild symptoms.
“You don’t go to an emergency room to get a COVID test if you’re asymptomatic and you don’t need medical care. It’s overwhelming our resources because, by law, we actually have to see you,” said Van Gorder.
He said Tuesday, inpatient surgeries were canceled at Scripps La Jolla unless they were emergencies because they did not have enough staffing.
A surge tent was also set up overnight a the parking to handle the overflow from the emergency room.
“In the middle of the night, our engineers put up a surge tent at Scripps La Jolla, they’re already up at Scripps Encinitas and Scripps Mercy hospital in San Diego, and I believe Chula Vista,” he said. “If the ambulances are bringing those patients in, we’re going to need more room to put them in until we can get them in a bed.”
Van Gorder tells ABC 10News that the hospital system went from 80 hospitalized COVID-19 patients on Christmas Eve to 210 on Tuesday. A significant increase in under two weeks, and he expects it to continue growing this month.
“We haven’t really seen the impact of New Year’s and Christmas right now,” he said. “The real difference between this year and last year, people say, ‘so what 200 patients? you had 600 patients in the hospital last year.’ The difference is our employees are getting sick.”
Van Gorder said the 702 unscheduled time off calls make up about 14.5 percent of the entire workforce across all Scripps hospitals and clinics. During past COVID-19 surges, only about 6 to 7 percent of the workforce would be out at a time.
He urges people to continue getting vaccinated and boosted if they haven’t yet, to lessen the chances of being hospitalized.
He also asks people to be patient during this surge, as many hospital employees deal with long hours.
“There’s a lot of heroics going on; we have a lot of employees that are filling the gap. There’s a lot of people that are being very, very rude and in some cases assaulting our staff members because they’re angry about the long wait and things like that. Our people are doing the best job that they can.”