While COVID-19 hospitalizations rise, UF Health Jacksonville sees nurse shortages increase

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Duval County hospitals are seeing record-breaking numbers in both COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.

Chad Neilsen, the Director of Infection Prevention at UF Health Jacksonville, says that Duval County has seen more than 600 patients with COVID-19 hospitalized in the last few days in Duval County. As of Friday morning, the Agency for Health Care Administration is reporting that close to 500 of those patients are in the hospital primarily for COVID-19.

“Currently here at UF Jacksonville, we’ve been averaging above 110 patients across our two campuses, which also have broken records for us that we had set over the summer. So both our hospital as well as all of the hospitals in the local area have cumulatively combined for a record number of COVID hospitalized patients,” Neilsen said.

On top of the hospitals scrambling due to the rising number of patients and cases, staffing has become an issue as well.

“Frankly, here in Duval County, we’re losing nurses left and right due to travel pay. So a lot of nurses are literally putting in their resignations and going to make travel-pay money to go to New York or L.A. And that obviously affects our staffing numbers,” Neilsen said. “As more and more patients surge into the hospital, UF health as well as the other local hospitals have had to get creative in terms of creating bed spaces, how we’re handling elective surgeries and and how we staff all of these beds.”

While they have reached out and worked with nursing students at local colleges and hospitals, it’s still difficult as the students need to be observed by someone from the hospital. Another factor that is hurting the low-staffing issue are the employees and their families getting exposed to COVID-19 and having to quarantine or isolate for the ten to 14 days.

Neilsen does note that while the COVID-19 vaccine has been helpful, people need to know that it’s not for wide-spread public distribution, and that precautions still need to be in place.

“And so what that means for health care organizations is we still have to rely on the public to wear their masks, continue the social distance for local businesses, operate in a safe manner to stop the spread of this infection, because we’re not going to be able to see any any positive results from this vaccine any time soon until it starts getting out to the masses,” Neilsen said. “So we have to continue to use the tools that we know work to to stem the tide of this pandemic, which is going to be effective use of masking, social distancing and safe business practices.”

Hannah Lee

Hannah Lee is a General Assignment Reporter for 104.5 WOKV.

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