Staffing shortages feared at some California hospitals as COVID-19 patients fill up beds

As California hospitals rapidly approach capacity because of the unprecedented spike in coronavirus cases, there are growing concerns about shortages of workers as the healthcare system strains to handle the growing demand.

Officials have contingency plans of opening up additional facilities if hospitals become overwhelmed, something developed by the first COVID-19 surge this past spring. But conditions have changed in significant ways since then that could make staffing an issue.

For one thing, the spring surge was more limited in scope, with some parts of California — and the nation — being hit harder than others. That allowed more room for shifting resources and bringing in medical professionals from areas that could spare them. The current surge is not only larger than the spring one but also much more widespread, leaving fewer areas with nurses and doctors to spare.

Moreover, some patients avoided emergency rooms and optional medical appointments in the spring, fearful of being infected. Fewer people are staying away now, and that is taxing hospitals as they see an influx of COVID-19 patients.

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