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Scripps Health Delays Non-Urgent Procedures, Says Health Care Workers Are Overworked

"Scripps Mercy Hospital" sign outside the Scripps Health hospital in Chula Vista, May 10, 2021.
Roland Lizarondo
"Scripps Mercy Hospital" sign outside the Scripps Health hospital in Chula Vista, May 10, 2021.

Early on in the pandemic, local hospitals delayed non-urgent procedures to make room for COVID-19 positive patients. Now, that’s happening again at Scripps Health.

Two short months ago, Scripps Health had 13 COVID-19 patients spread among their five hospital campuses. This week they had 175, plus another 850 patients who are being treated for other medical issues.

Scripps Health Delays Non-Urgent Procedures, Says Healthcare Workers Are Overworked
Listen to this story by Melissa Mae.

Health care workers are burning out, said Chris Van Gorder, the president and CEO of Scripps Health.

Van Gorder announced on Friday that some medical procedures may be postponed, but only those where it’s safe for the patient to wait. Decisions will be made by a doctor on a case-by-case basis.

“To make sure that we deliver the highest quality care for our patient, that they have an appropriate bed, be that in the intensive care unit or in a COVID unit when they do get sick and that we take a little bit of pressure off of our staff who deeply deserve that at this point and time,” Van Gorder said.

As health care workers face another surge of COVID-19 cases, Van Gorder said the public is treating them differently than early in the pandemic.

“People were coming and treating the health care workers as if they were heroes, businesses were bringing food and supplies. That has evaporated,” Van Gorder said. “As a matter of fact, the patients we are seeing now in many cases are angry. They’re yelling at the nurses and sometimes when we diagnose them with COVID, they say we’re lying to them.”

Scripps Health employs 16,700 people and is currently looking to fill about 1,300 full and part-time positions. The number of vacant jobs has increased by 57% from August 2019.

There are about 430 full and part-time registered nurse positions open, almost double the open nursing positions in August 2019.

Kimberly Brown, a licensed vocational nurse and instructor, said she feels the exhaustion.

“I have periods of time when I’m distressed and disheartened because I feel like we’re never going to get out of this,” Brown said. “We have gotten a lot of backlash from people and I think it’s out of their frustration and not knowing what to do and knowing how long this is going to be.”

Scripps Health is adequately staffed to deliver safe care and all patients admitted to the hospital will receive the care they need, Van Gorder said.

“One thing (our staff) would ask and the one thing I ask if the community wants to support its health care workers, get vaccinated and put those masks back on,” he said.

VIDEO: Scripps Health Delays Non-Urgent Procedures, Says Healthcare Workers Are Overworked