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Last month, healthcare workers went on strike to protest staff shortages. Due to the pandemic, hospitals across California have experienced massive spikes in terms of patient intakes. Healthcare workers have been at the front line of this deadly pandemic since the beginning, and  the increase in cases due to the delta variant have pushed many to protest against poor working conditions. Nearly a third of all hospitals across the state have reported staff shortage problems. If hospitals want to fill the gap, they need to start listing the demands of their workforce 一 it’s vital for the survival of millions.   

In September, National Guard medics were deployed to assist hospitals in the Central Valley. This specific region in California was hit the hardest by the delta variant surge, and hospitals in the area underwent massive staff shortages. One of the main reasons behind these shortages was that many workers experienced prolonged burnout. A greater feeling of disconnect between patients and the ones intended to look after them has been a constant battle. Healthcare workers are starting to feel helpless in their current situation. Nonetheless, burnout has been a problem in the health field long before the COVID-19 pandemic began. Since the start of the pandemic, this problem has become more apparent. A recent study done by the UC San Francisco healthcare workforce research center shows that nurses ages 55 to 64 who are planning on retiring or quitting within the next two years jumped by 14%. Healthcare professionals are under massive stress, and hospitals aren’t doing enough to help. 

Unions are demanding that hospitals put in more effort into hiring new staff. But many hospitals are reporting it’s not that easy to hire new workers. With so many people deciding to leave the field, it’s growing harder to fill the gap. Many workers aren’t willing to put up with the risks that come along with working in a hospital during a pandemic. Others are simply tired of not being fully compensated for all the hard work that they do. Hospitals rely on historic averages to predict the need for employees. Using this method oftentimes means that hospitals are operating with minimal staff. Therefore, nurses and doctors are having to take on too much during their already long work shifts. Many hospitals have started to offer incentives like shift bonus and child care, but it’s not enough. Unions have been demanding a pay increase since the start of the pandemic. Travel nurses are making upwards of $10,000 per week, a pay increase that redesitant staff members have yet to see. 

Hospitals need to start listening to the needs of caregivers across the state. Since the beginning of the pandemic, we have been cheering on our front-line workers, individuals who put their health on the line everyday to make sure others survive. With no real end in sight for this deadly pandemic, their demands should be heard. Putting the needs of our caregivers first only means better care for everyone in the state.

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