Newsom Launches Bid to Recruit Medical Workers for California

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (CN) — Staffing for a predicted patient surge, California Governor Gavin Newsom on Monday eased regulations to enable hospitals to quickly hire thousands of both licensed and to-be licensed nurses and doctors.

“If you’re a nursing school student or medical school student, we need you. If you’ve just retired in the last few years, we need you,” Newsom said in his pitch.

Semi trucks drive by a freeway sign along Interstate 5 that urges people to stay at home due to the Covid-19 outbreak on their way toward Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

Newsom’s call for an influx of medical professionals comes as the state has seen a doubling of coronavirus hospitalizations (1,400) and tripling of intensive care patients (590) over the last four days.

The executive order suspends certain staffing and scope-of-practice requirements through at least June and is aimed at expanding the health care workforce as the state continues its search for 50,000 new hospital beds. Newsom said the state aims to recruit thousands of retired doctors — as well as nearly graduated nurses and doctors — to temporarily staff overburdened hospitals and new emergency sites on the front lines of the pandemic.

Newsom claims there are up to 37,000 Californians eligible for a temporary health care job and urged those interested to visit a newly launched hiring website. The state is looking for nurses, doctors, behavioral health specialists, pharmacists and assistants to help California “meet the moment.”

To help with the cost, Newsom announced Facebook has chipped in $25 million to pay hotel stipends and child care needs for those who sign up under the program.

“That’s the spirit of California, that’s the spirit of this moment, it’s the spirit that’s driving our resolve,” Newsom said of contributions given by businesses like Facebook, Tesla and Virgin Airlines over the last month.

Jarred by pandemic modeling showing up to 56% of Californians could be infected by the novel coronavirus if urgent precautions weren’t taken, 11 days ago Newsom issued the first statewide shelter-in-place order. He’s since enlisted the help of the private sector to bolster the state’s supply of ventilators, test kits and protective equipment and secured a U.S. Navy hospital ship for the Port of Los Angeles.

The pandemic’s impact has not only shut down entire industries, but many of the Golden State’s trial courts as well.

Last Friday, Newsom issued an executive order granting California Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye the authority to “to take any action she deems necessary” to maintain operations at any court. The following day, the Judicial Council of California voted unanimously to delay criminal arraignments, extend timelines for criminal trials, and use technology wherever possible to help courts conduct remote proceedings as they grapple with ensuring due process while protecting public health.

On Monday, the Democratic governor refused to say whether the statewide shelter order has been successful and declined to give a date of when hospitalizations might peak. Instead, Newsom encouraged Californians to remain vigilant over the coming weeks and said the decision to quarantine has “bought” the state and hospitals time to plan.

“We’re in the middle of this, I think it would be too easy for us to assert a belief in this moment about what has or has not worked,” Newsom said. “We know what does work and that’s physical distancing.”

While hospitalizations have spiked over the last week, Newsom’s administration says state hospitals are adequately prepared for the time being.

“Our current efforts around surge meet the moment, and we’re able to take care of anyone who needs a hospital bed today, anyone who needs an ICU bed or needs a ventilator,” said Mark Ghaly, secretary of California Health and Human Services.

As of Monday morning, California had the third most confirmed Covid-19 cases behind New Jersey and New York, but the total is certain to rise as the state is still awaiting results for “tens of thousands” of conducted tests. Newsom called the pending amount “extraordinarily frustrating” and said the state continues to need more reagents and RNA extraction kits to conduct more testing.

To deal with the forecast surge, Newsom said the state is sticking to its goal of securing at least 50,000 hospital beds and warned the next few weeks will be critical.

“Decisions, not conditions, determine our fate and future,” Newsom said, citing the popular mantra.

In Los Angeles County — California’s most populous county — health officials announced seven new deaths on Monday and 675 new positive Covid-19 cases in the last 48 hours. The death toll in the county stands at 44.

An inmate at the LA County Jail tested positive last week along with four jail staff said Barbara Ferrer, LA County health department director.

“That person is no longer there,” said Ferrer at a press conference Monday, noting the inmate had been transferred to a local hospital and 191 inmates who may have been exposed are in quarantine.

Over the weekend, the California National Guard transformed the LA Convention Center into a field hospital as medical facilities across the region brace for a surge of Covid-19 cases to overwhelm hospitals.

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