This article is reprinted from the Speak Out Now healthcare newsletter at Kaiser and Highland Hospitals in Oakland, CA.
A hospital is not made up of solely healthcare providers and patients. Hospitals function because of the vital responsibilities of all its workers: those who transport patients, the ones who move medications from one building to the next, custodians, delivery persons, food workers, etc. Without these essential workers healthcare providers would not be able to offer timely, vital care to those in need.
Here at Kaiser Oakland, there used to be a larger team of transport workers who moved patients to appointments or brought recovering patients to loved ones so they could go home, and new patients could enter the hospital for care. Recently, the team has been more than slashed in half, and is now made up of only four. What has this done? Patient care has been impacted, and hospital workers are experiencing increased strain. Four workers to cover a 950,000 ft² hospital is a travesty. If one transporter is out, the system completely collapses.
Workers are being pushed to the breaking point, and some have had their health impacted from the physical strain of moving patients without enough hands on deck. Patients are suffering too because of this short staffing. People are waiting up to an hour to be moved from one part of the hospital to another. Recently some children with cancer missed their appointments following surgery because of the wait time for an available transporter. Another patient was so frustrated from waiting that they tried to move themselves, and collapsed. In addition, healthcare workers cannot see new patients if recovering patients are not being moved out of the hospital efficiently.
Short staffing harms us all. Workers should not be forced to choose between their physical health and their financial survival. Without enough staff, all employees must do multiple jobs. All the workers in the hospital are essential. We need adequate staffing now.