UCLA Nurses Urge Hospital To Help Overburdened Staff In Pandemic

Nicole Charky

SANTA MONICA, CA — Registered nurses at UCLA's Santa Monica hospital asked that it help overburdened staff members continue care for patients during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Registered nurses at the University of California, Los Angeles' Santa Monica Medical Center and the University of California, Irvine's Medical Center on Wednesday protested their use of state waivers to circumvent registered nurse-to-patient safe staffing standards, the California Nurses Association/National Nurses United labor union announced.

Nurses represented by the union urged UCLA and UCI to staff for safe patient care, asking the hospitals "not to use the pandemic as an excuse to put patients at serious risk."

"Under 'expedited waivers,' hospitals can increase the workload of already overburdened nurses," the union said in a news release. "By the mere submission of a form, hospitals can require nurses in intensive care units and throughout the hospital setting to unsafely care for more patients at one time."

"For more than 10 months, since the pandemic began, we have been calling on UCLA to increase staffing to safe and adequate levels,” Valerie Ewald, a registered nurse at UCLA, said in a statement.

“I work in the dedicated Covid ICU at UCLA Santa Monica," Ewald said. "We are already stretched beyond our limits. I hate to even think about how increased ratios would affect our patient's outcomes in irreparable ways. UCLA has the resources to provide for safe staffing levels, if only they choose to do so."

“Since the start of this pandemic, nurses have been struggling to provide the highest quality of patient care despite very difficult circumstances,” said Angela Mayfield, a registered nurse in a medical-surgical unit. “Nurses have worked short-staffed for months. The patients are getting sicker and sicker, and the pressure on the bedside nurse can be overwhelming. The thought of adding more patients to our already overburdened staff is very scary and could prove dangerous for us and our patients.”

"The safety and well being of UCLA Health nurses our other health care workers and our patients is our overriding priority at all times," UCLA said in a statement to Patch. "We understand the anxiety created by the high volume of COVID-19 patients and associated workload, and we value our staff’s dedication to safe, high-quality, compassionate patient care.

"UCLA Health hospitals meet and in some cases exceed state-mandated nurse-to-patient staffing ratios intended to ensure safety, and we regularly make adjustments in individual nursing units based on acuity of patient conditions," UCLA added. "Among many steps taken over the past few months, we have supplemented nurse staffing, cross-trained staff to different specialties and added support staff as needed.

"While this waiver provides important flexibility in our ongoing preparedness and surge planning strategies amid the increased number of COVID-19 patients, we have not had to invoke it since its approval by the state on Dec. 11, 2020," the hospital said.

As of Tuesday, Santa Monica had 3,320 reported coronavirus cases. That is a 321-case increase over the last seven days, from Jan. 4 to Tuesday.

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This article originally appeared on the Santa Monica Patch