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Scripps Health Facing Workforce Shortages Amid Surge In COVID-19 Cases

An emergency entrance sign is displayed in front of Scripps Mercy Hospital in Chula Vista on June 1, 2021.
Alexander Nguyen
An emergency entrance sign is displayed in front of Scripps Mercy Hospital in Chula Vista on June 1, 2021.

Scripps Health announced Friday that it is facing "significant" workforce shortages amid a surge of COVID-19 cases, with more open positions available than before the beginning of the pandemic.

The healthcare system said patient numbers are rising, both in COVID- 19 cases and non-COVID care, but some medical procedures have had to be delayed due to staffing shortages.

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"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."

Scripps Health is seeking to fill 1,309 full and part-time open positions, compared to 832 open positions in August 2019.

According to Scripps, there were 173 COVID-positive patients at Scripps' five hospital campuses as of Friday, compared to 13 hospitalized COVID patients on June 15, when California pulled back on much of its pandemic restrictions.

While medical staff evaluates which procedures will be delayed based on clinical factors, the demand for services is growing, as Scripps is also seeing patients whose care was already delayed during the pandemic, according to Van Gorder.

"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."