(KTXL) — Respiratory therapists at a local hospital said they are seeing more COVID-19 patients needing help breathing than at any other time during the pandemic.
For staff, it’s taking a massive toll mentally and physically.
“Right now, it is becoming emotionally taxing and physically taxing. Because like I said, we are proning patients, meaning flipping them over into their stomach and that’s physically taxing and then patients are dying every day,” said Marc Cook, a respiratory therapist with Kaiser Permanente.
Cook said he and his colleagues at the hospital in Roseville are treating more COVID-19 related patients than ever. He added that therapists are not only caring for more patients during a shift but they are being asked to work more as well.
“We are stretched so thin that we almost can’t give the care that we did a year ago,” Cook said.
FOX40 reached out to Kaiser about the workload and complaints by staff about low morale. Kaiser Permanente said they are bringing in more respiratory therapists.
“We recognize what a monumental effort this continues to be, and we remain committed to supporting our employees and meeting their own physical and mental health care needs,” Kaiser Permanente said.
Both staff and the hospital said a lack of vaccinations among those who are sick is playing a massive role in the increased cases.
“It is clear vaccination against COVID-19 prevents most infections and reduces severe illness from this virus, and reduces the need for hospitalizations. Widespread vaccination is our best hope of stopping this virus and keeping our communities safe,” Kaiser Permanente said.
According to Cook, he rarely deals with people who need help breathing who are vaccinated.
“The majority of the patients that we are seeing were unvaccinated, and the ones that were vaccinated were mostly not even on our services,” Cook said.
Cook said his colleagues are currently not offered increased compensation by the hospital like they were during the COVID-19 surge last year. It’s something he would like changed.
Kaiser also told FOX40 that over 85% of the patients in their Northern California hospitals, including those in intensive care, are unvaccinated.
Read Kaiser Permanente’s full statement below:
The current surge in COVID-19 cases across the country — driven by the much more contagious Delta variant — is sending more people to the hospital for treatment. Kaiser Permanente hospitals in the Sacramento/Roseville area are already caring for more or nearly as many patients right now as we treated at the peak of the surge last winter. A bit less than a third of the total number of patients in the Roseville hospital are positive for COVID-19.
Over 85% of the patients in our northern California hospitals including those in intensive care, are unvaccinated. It is clear vaccination against COVID-19 prevents most infections and reduces severe illness from this virus, and reduces the need for hospitalizations. Widespread vaccination is our best hope of stopping this virus and keeping our communities safe. We urge everyone to help end the pandemic by getting the safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine.
We greatly expanded our capacity last year at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, allowing us to quickly increase treatment space, staff, and supplies to safely and expertly treat a surge of patients with COVID-19. We are making space adjustments as needed to safely accommodate the volume and needs of our patients.
After nearly 18 months of delivering care in this pandemic, we have nothing but admiration and gratitude for our dedicated staff. Even in the face of this growing, preventable surge, they continue to work diligently to care for our members and patients every day. We recognize what a monumental effort this continues to be, and we remain committed to supporting our employees and meeting their own physical and mental health care needs. During the pandemic this has included child care assistance, expanded paid leave, mental health resources, and other benefits for our employees and their families.
And while staffing continues to be a challenge across health care, we have hired hundreds of nurses and other care team members in recent months and continue to support our teams and their need for respite by bringing in experienced temporary staff. We are supplementing our current Respiratory Therapy staff with 12 qualified traveler Respiratory Therapists, 7 of which have already arrived (including 4 yesterday ), as well as engaging nurses and other care team members as appropriate to provide support for Respiratory Therapy during this surge.