NewsTeam 10 Investigates


Local providers working to meet healthcare demands

Posted at 5:12 PM, Mar 23, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-23 20:12:45-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - A global recruitment company tells 10News there is a concern that the healthcare system is going to be over-run by patients.

It brings up questions whether San Diego County has enough nurses to staff hospitals and medical centers if the coronavirus pandemic goes on for an extended period.

"The problem that we're seeing now, post-pandemic and coronavirus, is that those nurses can't flock to any one area to support people because the problem is, they have to support locally where they are," said Jon Griffith with the recruitment company GQR. Griffith explained there were supply and demand issues with nurses before COVID-19. Now travel nurses, who would typically fill the void are needed in every state, and not necessarily available to travel.

"We're seeing people called out of retirement," he said. "Nurses and physicians alike being requested to come out and support. Essentially what we're trying to do at GQR is to tap into those resources or new grad nurses, retired nurses, wherever we can to give that local support to these hospitals to try and mitigate that risk."

Griffith told 10News the hospitals they've spoken with are aware of potential challenges and are gearing up to make sure people have their healthcare needs met.

"They are heroes alright," Griffith said. "We see this all on social media. They are on the frontlines still giving great patient care and focusing on that continuity of care and that right there is what this is all about. But nurses have that fear of being understaffed and hospitals are really trying to rise to that challenge right now."

10News asked healthcare providers across San Diego County how they will maintain staffing levels as nurses get sick or burned out, and if they have enough staff to backfill any vacancies.
Here are the responses we got back.

Sharp Healthcare:
Yes, definitely a consideration given the unknowns around how long the COVID-19 outbreak will last. Because elective and non-emergent procedures are canceled, that frees up personnel who may be needed to backfill in other areas.

UC San Diego Health
Yes, we have a comprehensive plan for staffing our hospitals and clinics throughout the pandemic. In addition to a workforce of more than 2,900 nurses, we have access to additional nurse travelers and registry nurses to quickly flex up as needed. Our operational command centers monitor all personnel needs and deploy caregivers and resources across our health system in real time.

Kaiser Permanente
We are working with our public health partners to manage all aspects of the health care delivery continuum, and so far, our plans are working even as conditions, needs and priorities change. As we do every flu season, we have contingency plans in place to manage both higher numbers of patients in our facilities and illness among staff. Out of extreme caution as we respond to the challenge of coronavirus, employees who may have been exposed to the virus will remain at home for a 14-day observation period. We are able to manage this in part with fully licensed or certified seasonal contract staff. And because we are a fully integrated health care system, we have the ability to move staff from one facility to another and to adjust work schedules as needs dictate. We appreciate the flexibility and willingness to help among all of our team members.

Scripps Health
Scripps Health is currently recruiting for registered nurses and other key patient care roles as the impact of COVID-19 continues to play out. We have extended all current agency and traveler contracts through the end of May to ensure we have consistent coverage. Our Employee Assistance Program continues to work with our caregivers to help manage stress and burnout, such as mindfulness-based stress reduction sessions.
In a sign of our commitment to the safety of our employees and patients, we have shifted our interview processes to be completely virtual so that applicants are not coming on our campuses. Also, our new employee orientation is now being conducted online so that we can minimize group sizes and practice social distancing where possible for caregivers.

Do we have enough nurses currently to back fill the vacancies we expect?
We are focused on protecting our workforce so they can safely treat our patients. We continue to recruit high-caliber candidates in the roles we anticipate needing and fast track the rehire process for those wanting to return to Scripps. Our nursing leadership is developing scenarios to better understand what roles may be needed in the future and how we staff up or cross-train clinicians to fill those potential gaps. We are looking at how our clinic and outpatient staff might be utilized in the hospital setting. We have established a labor pool of staffing that will better enable us to meet the needs of increased hospitalizations. We are also actively assessing roles to evaluate where there may be crossover of skills among nursing disciplines, which can effectively broaden our availability of nurses.

If we don’t, where will that manpower come from?
We have strong partnerships with several traveler and agency firms to assist in urgent placements. We are partnering with the state and the California Hospital Association in loosening restrictions on out-of-state licensed clinicians and student nurses as well.