Happy New Year!
Unfortunately, the New Year feels a little like Groundhog Day as find ourselves in a very familiar place – in the middle of a precipitously increasing COVID-19 surge. While the variant may have a different name, we’re dealing with many of the same challenges – in some cases, worse than last winter’s deadly Delta surge.
For almost two years, the relentless battle to fight COVID-19 has strained our hospital workforce like never before. This is a national challenge – health care employment is down approximately 450,000 workers, and it is projected to worsen. Workforce shortages have been the top issue since the beginning of the pandemic; however, the infectious Omicron variant has resulted in a growing number of health care professionals becoming infected or exposed to the virus resulting in unprecedented staff call outs. There is also increased demand for non-COVID-19 health care services such as flu treatment and now-urgent procedures that were put on hold earlier in the pandemic.
Hospitals in our region are seeing patients presenting to the emergency department to get tested, evaluated, and treated for COVID-19 alongside non-COVID-19-related illnesses. In many cases, the emergency department is not the most appropriate setting for less acute conditions and testing. In an effort to educate the community on where to seek care, HASC and CHA have worked to inform the public through a social media toolkit. Messaging and creative assets have been distributed to hospital communications leads throughout the region to amplify this important messaging.
The longstanding issue of Ambulance Patient Offload Delays (APOD) has created pressures in various Southern California counties. Often, this issue is inaccurately characterized as a hospital problem; however, that viewpoint fails to recognize the true complexity of the issue and the wide range of contributing factors at play – many of which have plagued the entire health care delivery system for decades. The failure to recognize the systemic and persistent issues is an oversimplification of an-already-deficient system that is only exacerbated by pandemic-induced strains. At the local level, HASC continues to educate EMS agencies and leaders about the interlinked causes of APOD and the current headwinds faced by our hospitals. I am also serving on a statewide APOD committee with other key stakeholders, including state representatives, to represent the HASC region’s interests on this issue. We also continue to strongly oppose penalties or fees imposed on hospitals. Collectively, we all share a common goal – to provide the highest quality of care to the communities we serve.
Looking ahead, I’d like end on an optimistic and hopeful note by encouraging you and your leadership teams to attend our in-person 2022 Annual Meeting at the Park Hyatt Aviara in Carlsbad, May 16-18. I believe that our hospital leaders will enjoy the fellowship, learning, and comradery that our Annual Meeting provides. We look forward to being on the other side of this surge and in your company celebrating our community and your commitment to caring.
Thank you for all that you continue to do.
Take care and stay safe.