SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — Scripps Health announced Friday that it is delaying some medical procedures that can be safely postponed due to a combination of staff shortages, and the increase in COVID-19 cases and non-COVID cases. Scripps Health said doctors will determine which procedures can be delayed and notify their patients.
"If it's not an emergency case, maybe a case can be delayed a few days or a week, or even a couple of weeks, it can be everything from a heart case that's not an emergency to other surgical procedures," said Chris Van Gorder, Scripps Health President and CEO.
The hospital system added that it's also considering whether to temporarily consolidate some ambulatory sites, such as medical offices and clinics, due to the staffing shortage.
Currently, Scripps Health has 1,309 full- and part-time positions open, compared to 832 open positions at this time in 2019. Of those positions currently open, 433 are for full- and part-time registered nurses, compared to 220 openings in August 2019.
Van Gorder attributed the shortage to "fatigue and burnout" due to more than a year and a half of the pandemic.
"The COVID pandemic has taken a serious toll on health care workers across the nation, and many have decided to leave the field entirely for reasons such as fatigue and burnout," said Scripps Health President and CEO Chris Van Gorder. "We’re doing all we can to fill open positions and shifts, but options are currently limited across the board in health care, so we’re doing what’s necessary to ensure we have staff available for our most urgent cases."
Van Gorder said
As Scripps looks to fill the more than 1,300 open positions, the hospital added that COVID-19 hospitalizations at its locations are spiking. As of Friday, the system has 173 COVID-positive patients admitted at its five hospitals, compared to 13 hospitalized COVID patients on June 15, when California lifted most of its COVID restrictions.
Amid the current surge of COVID patients, Scripps said its staff is also seeing patients for care that was delayed throughout the last year.
"Our inpatients right now are up 19 percent than it was pre-pandemic, and it’s harder to get staff now than it was pre-pandemic" said Van Gorder.
Van Gorder said health care staff will not be able to provide the best care possible if COVID cases continue to climb and staffing remains low.
"We are asking people to please get vaccinated. Wear masks. Do what you can to vanquish this pandemic," Van Gorder said. "We in health care simply will not be able to continue to help this community and our patients in the way we need to if we are faced with an ever-increasing number of COVID cases on top of the large number of patients we are treating already and the level of staffing we have available."
In San Diego County, as of Wednesday, there were 599 COVID-related patients in area hospitals, 142 of which were intensive care cases. Wednesday's hospital case count is up from 407 hospitalized patients two weeks prior on Aug. 3, according to the county's data.
According to county public health officials, the region has seen a 239% increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations and a 216% increase in COVID-19 ICU cases over the last 30 days. Over that same time period, the county's data shows that 462 hospitalizations are residents who are not fully vaccinated, while 19 hospitalizations are fully vaccinated individuals.
Recently, California mandated that all health care workers in the state be fully vaccinated or get their second dose of the coronavirus vaccine by Sept. 30. Hospital guests must also be either fully vaccinated or provide a negative COVID-19 test taken within the last 72 hours before indoor visits.