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Hospitals Explain Need For Relief

 March 5, 2021 at 4:22 AM PST

Good Morning, I’m Annica Colbert….it’s Friday March 5th A hospital on why it applied for the patient per nurse limit waiver. We’ll have that next, but first... let’s do the headlines…. 40 percent of all COVID-19 vaccines in California will now be reserved for residents living in the most vulnerable areas. Most of the zip codes identified by the state are in Los Angeles County and the Central Valley. But several zip codes in San Diego’s South Bay will also benefit. Here’s Supervisor Nora Vargas... "The Latino community has been most impacted disproportionately by COVID-19 especially in the South Bay. So if we’re gonna reach herd immunity we have to make sure we take these bolder steps." the state has agreed to relax restrictions on youth sports as part of a settlement in a case brought by a local attorney. The ruling in the case found that youth sports, both indoor and outdoor, could resume if teams maintained COVID-19 protocols similar to those that professional and collegiate teams follow. The San Diego Blood bank is putting out an urgent call for donations, saying it’s supply is at critical levels. They say all blood types are needed. To donate, you need to be 17 or older and weigh at least 114pounds and be in good health. You can schedule a donation appointment through the blood bank website or call 619-400-82-51. From KPBS, you’re listening to San Diego News Now. Stay with me for more of the local news you need. COVID-19 hospitalizations skyrocketed in California around the holidays. And when staffing couldn’t keep up...the state let hospitals put more patients on a nurse’s workload than law usually allows. But a KPBS/inewsource investigation found many hospitals that received permission to waive those workload restrictions... submitted incomplete applications. In the second of a two-part series… KPBS Health Reporter Tarryn Mento hears from hospitals that say they desperately needed the relief. It was around Halloween, and the outlook was frightening at Scripps Health. Senior Vice President of Human Resources Eric Cole said projections showed a surge of COVID-19 patients would arrive by the end of the year. 00:02:41:17 that the number of patients we had today would grow five fold, um, over the next six to eight weeks. That meant its workforce needed to grow too. A state law designed to support employee and patient safety mandates a certain ratio of nurses to patients. But Scripps struggled to find enough staff to meet required levels -- they tried hiring. 00:03:10:07 and those were in slim supply They looked for travel nurses. 00:02:57:11 very slim supply since this was a nationwide pandemic and those resources were spread across the entire united states And some core staff became sick as COVID-19 spread, making the situation even worse. 00:16:10:03 over night, if the ICU creeps up five, six, um, uh, seven patients, I can't produce an RN overnight to fill the gap that I have to, to maintain those staffing ratios Hospitals across the state faced similar challenges during the pandemic. And the governor made it easier to stray from the staffing rules. Hospitals could receive a temporary waiver to expand a nurse’s workload by one to two patients. Four Scripps facilities are among 200 California hospitals that received one since COVID-19 hit. Many applied during the winter surge. 00:07:21:06 we had over 500 patients within our hospitals with COVID that's five times more than what we had earlier in the year. The state health department declined an interview but said in an email waivers should be a last resort. The waiver application says hospitals should exhaust alternatives before seeking one, but the state said in its email that facilities actually don’t need to. And a KPBS/inewsource analysis of publicly posted waivers found dozens didn’t document they tried all listed alternatives before seeking the waiver. 00:05:39:09 There are simply not enough nurses. Carmela Coyle leads the California Hospital Association. She says staffing shortages occurred all over the country. But California has set nurse to patient ratios. And without a waiver hospitals would have been forced to let patients wait in emergency rooms or ambulances. 00:13:52:10 “If nurse staffing ratios are preventing us from caring for more patients in the intensive care unit, that's not an answer that we can accept.” But El Centro Regional Medical Center CEO Adolphe Edward raised concerns some facilities took advantage of the waiver process. 00:04:14:20 “I was fortunate to have received a waiver and I’m saddened that hospitals would ask for them without really using them and I don’t think that’s appropriate either because it wastes the time of CDPH and giving approval for things that we shouldn’t be asking for.” Edward says the Imperial County hospital applied after state provided resources still weren't enough. Their form noted they tried all alternatives listed. That includes setting up clinics for non-emergency cases, rescheduling elective procedures and transferring patients. 00:02:08:09 with the staff that we had, we realized if we had not asked for a waiver, we’d be in a lot of trouble Two Scripps facilities didn’t note they tried all alternatives prior to their first application but Cole says they did later for an extension. He says they tried to stay within ratios at all costs but proactively requested a waiver ahead of the spike its projections showed was coming. “I think it’d be poor planning and it would be harmful to our staff and our patients to not take advantage of a tool that’s available and use it sparingly when it’s absolutely needed.” The governor just last month cancelled the expedited waivers because hospitalizations have declined. The California Nurses Association cited the move as a victory. But at least 84 hospitals were still granted extensions until the state provided them with more staff. Scripps says it received three nurses and their time should end later this month, but it could depend on patient volumes. Tarryn Mento. KPBS News. That was KPBS Health Reporter Tarryn Mento. This story was co-reported by inewsource investigative reporter Jill Castellano. inewsource is an independently funded nonprofit partner of KPBS. San Diego County has not been spared from the nationwide spike in racist attacks against members of Asian and Pacific Islander communities during the pandemic. KPBS investigative reporter Claire Trageser has the story. The alleged attack was a cruel and brazen--a man punching an elderly Filipino woman on a San Diego trolley. The San Diego County District Attorney’s Office says there wasn’t enough evidence to file hate crime charges in that case. But it has filed charges in three other cases of hate crimes against Asian Americans in 2020. And last May, District Attorney Summer Stephan set up a hotline and website where people can call or make online reports of hate crimes and racist incidents. She says they received 110 reports to the hotline, and 10 were reports about incidents directed toward people of Asian descent. “That’s what’s disturbing, is we weren’t seeing that type of hate crime directed toward our Asian community until COVID in 2020.” The San Francisco-based advocacy organization Stop AAPI Hate collected 29 reports of racist incidents in San Diego County against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders from March through December 2020. Russel Jeung co-founded the Stop AAPI Hate group. “The attacks were pretty traumatizing, because it’s unexpected that adults would bully others, that they would use such racial slurs and epithets.” Stephan says hate crimes must be pursued vigorously because they tear the fabric of communities in all corners of the county. And that was KPBS investigative reporter Claire Trageser. THERE’S BEEN A LOT OF TALK ABOUT A so-called “California EXODUS”---A LARGE NUMBER OF PEOPLE PACKING UP AND LEAVING THE STATE. BUT AS CAP RADIO’S MIKE HAGERTY TELLS US, A NEW STUDY BY THE CALIFORNIA POLICY LAB AT U-C BERKELEY SAYS IT’S JUST THAT---A LOT OF TALK. The CPL study found the percentage of Californians moving is pretty much in line with historical norms over the last five years. Lead researcher Natalie Holmes says there’s only one part of California where people are leaving at a higher-than-normal rate...San Francisco. But even there, the data doesn’t support the narrative of a CalExodus. [HOLMES: “With people moving from San Francisco, almost 80 percent are remaining in the State of California, and about two-thirds are remaining in the Bay Area. If you look back over the last couple of years, where people are going has also remained pretty stable. So, for most San Franciscans who move, they’re remaining in the bay. Outside of the Bay, the most common destination is L.A. County.” The report also shows an increase in people moving from San Francisco to Sacramento and the Sierra. And that was cap radio’s Mike Hagerty. The city of Stockton piloted a program to guarantee some residents a basic income of 500 dollars a month for 2 years. It was the first program of it’s kinda and it’s now the subject of a 25-page study that shows it to be a success. Capradio’s rich ibarra reports. Critics called it a handout that would cause people to spend it on luxuries or drugs and discourage them from looking for work. Former Stockton Mayor Michael Tubbs began the experiment without using a single cent from public funds but rather private donors who wanted to see what would come of it. “The idea that giving people 500 dollars a month to make them stop working is a lie, also remarkably moved by the health data, the fact that stress and anxiety were reduced significantly.” Tomas Vargas, his wife, and 2 children were among the recipients…earning 31-thousand a year but still hardly making it. The money allowed him to hire a tutor for his daughter, and yes, he worried less day to day. “It’s helped my stress level, like I said, I get to relax more, get to spend time my kids because that helps me and my health better.” The study found that the key takeaways were better health, new job opportunities, and not being overcome by sudden expenses. Stockton was the perfect incubator for the study with one out of 4 residents living in poverty…18th in the nation for child poverty. Tubbs says other cities have begun to follow in Stockton’s footprints. “Now there are over 40 mayors in the country including 7 in California who are saying we need a guaranteed income.” The study headed by several university researchers concluded that “poverty results from a lack of cash, not character.” And that was Cap Radio’s Rich Ibarra reporting from Stockton. Coming up....International Women’s day is coming up on monday, March 8th. We have a conversation about the wage gap here in San Diego of 18% between women and men… and what could be done to change things. That’s next, after this break. As we approach Women’s Equal Pay Day we want to look at where we are in terms of closing the gender pay gap. This year women’s pay day is March 24th … a day that symbolizes how many extra days into the new year -- 83 days -- a woman has to work to make what a man did the previous year. For every dollar a man makes, women make just 83 cents. And that wage gap is even greater for most women of color across the country. Here in San Diego, a recent pay equity study of the city’s workforce reveals women make about 18 percent less than men and people of color earn about 21 percent less than Whites of both genders. . So how can we close the gap? Hei-ock Kim is the Executive Director of The Kim Center for Social Balance. She spoke with KPBS Midday Edition host Jade Hindmon about the situation. That was Hei-ock Kim is the Executive Director of The Kim Center for Social Balance, speaking with KPBS Midday Edition Host Jade Hindmon. THE DOCUMENTARY "THE TRUFFLE HUNTERS" IS ON THE SHORTLIST FOR OSCAR’S BEST DOCUMENTARY. KPBS FILM CRITIC BETH ACCOMANDO SAYS IT’S A CAPTIVATING TALE OF OLD MEN, THEIR DOGS, AND THE SEARCH FOR TRUFFLES. A darkened alley late at night: two men negotiate a price for the small items in a brown paper bag. The buyer scoffs at the cost of four thousand Euros but eventually succumbs. Such is the truffle trade in Northern Italy, a secretive world that filmmakers Michael Dweck and Gregory Kershaw won entry to for their documentary The Truffle Hunters. CLIP Music The film is stunning in how it gracefully creates portraits of these men and their vanishing way of life. Shots are framed wide and without edits so that we can savor these delightful, passionate characters in their environments and often with their beloved dogs. This documentary is as rare and delicious as the white gold these men seek. That was KPBS Arts reporter Beth Accomando. That’s it for the podcast today. Be sure to catch KPBS Midday Edition At Noon on KPBS radio, or check out the Midday podcast. You can also watch KPBS Evening Edition at 5 O’clock on KPBS Television, and as always you can find more San Diego news online at KPBS dot org. I’m Annica Colbert. Thanks for listening and have a great day.

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Local hospitals explain why they asked for waivers to expand nurses’ workloads during a COVID-19 surge. Meanwhile, San Diego's spike in hate crimes against Asian Americans mirrors a national trend. Plus, what can be done to close the wage gap in San Diego?