In March 2020, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced a new initiative and executive order establishing California Health Corps, to help expand and recruit California’s health care workforce in the fight against the COVID-19 virus. “Health care professionals with an active license, public health professionals, medical retirees, medical and nursing students, or members of medical disaster response teams in California are all encouraged to join the new California Health Corps,” the governor’s press statement said.
The governor got an outstanding response.
“An army of 95,000 initially raised their hands,” the Associated Press reported, “and just 14 are now working in the field.”
The Globe was contacted by a physician Sunday who said she is one of the 850 fully licensed and qualified medical personnel in the California Healthcare Corps program, but said 14 are currently deployed. She signed up in April 2020 and has been approved for months, but was never called. “Instead, I’ve been volunteering in another state’s vaccination effort,” she said.
However, she reported back that she was finally contacted Monday, and will be working as a physician within the state. So make that 15 medical professionals will be working in the field.
The AP reports:
“Very few volunteers actually met qualifications for the California Health Corps, and only a tiny sliver have the high-level experience needed to help with the most serious virus cases that are stretching intensive care units to the limit.”
“Unfortunately, it hasn’t worked out, and the goal is laudable,” said Stephanie Roberson, government relations director for the California Nurses Association labor union.
It’s difficult to believe that of the 95,000 initial responses by licensed and qualified medical personnel, only 850 “qualified,” and 14 or 15 are being used. Is this an issue of the nurses union not wanting competition so they can threaten a strike for more pay and benefits, and different working conditions?
“Similarly, New York had more than 80,000 medical volunteers respond to a call for help early in the pandemic when it was a hot spot, and some were deployed. But hospitals more often turned to temporary workers to fill the gap, said Jean Moore, director of the Health Workforce Research Center at University at Albany.”
Other states, including Illinois, Indiana and Pennsylvania, tried variations of recruiting volunteers with limited results.
“A volunteer corps assumes that it’s pretty easy to slot people in,” said Sean Clarke, executive vice dean and professor at New York University’s Rory Meyers College of Nursing. “Figuring out how to do that still hasn’t been fleshed out, I guess.”
This “shortage” smells of labor union opportunism, even during a medical crisis. If the state received 95,000 responses to the call for medical professionals, only 850 of those were qualified, where are the other 836 fully licensed and qualified medical personnel, and why aren’t they being deployed to hospitals throughout the state?
The California Nurses Association labor union is protesting a state decision which relaxed nurse-to-patient ratios at hospitals caring for coronavirus patients to allow hospitals more flexibility in staffing.
“A scramble for nurses from other states and even other countries now runs up against a hard reality: Few nurses want to enter hospitals where they will put their own lives in jeopardy every day, especially with the blanket waivers the state has approved,” said Sandy Reding, RN, a registered nurse and president of the California Nurses Association in a Sacramento Bee op ed.
California officials say they need 3,000 temporary medical workers but had about one-third of those as of Thursday. Hospitals are waiving the state’s nurse-to-patient ratios, which can mean less care for critically ill patients, the AP reported.
The 836 available and vetted Health Corps volunteers is a good place to start. And what about employing medical professionals from all of the closed medical practices in the state, which died when the governor cancelled all “elective” surgeries and treatments? There are a lot of out-of-work doctors and nurses. What about the furloughed nurses from closed hospital units? In a state of 40 million residents, which constantly decries the nurse and doctor shortage, there shouldn’t be unemployed medical professionals.
It sounds like a case of failed leadership and bureaucracy, in addition to labor union manipulations. Gov. Newsom had a good idea, but the state’s behemoth bureaucracy and labor union dominance got in the way.
“Newsom had envisioned Health Corps volunteers helping fill in the gaps at health facilities. Those who qualified include retired or inactive doctors, nurses and respiratory care practitioners. Though they’re volunteers, they’re paid what the state calls competitive wages.”
We know many medical professionals who are doing Yeoman’s work, and have been for the last 10 months. It is no wonder they are exhausted, with many even fighting COVID themselves. This would be a good time to use all available medical personnel – volunteer corps or otherwise – for the good of the state, and the good of all of the people of the state.
This is just another reason government involvement in health care is a disaster.
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