SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KTXL) — Despite guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention saying it is OK for hospital staff to return to work if they’re asymptomatic, some local nurses say providing patient care while COVID-19 positive is just too much.

Caregivers from UC Davis Health said they are looking for a different response out of their place of employment, regardless of national recommendations.

Speaking virtually, they stressed their belief that having COVID-19 positive nurses working presents a major risk to patient safety.

The nurses who spoke Tuesday also claimed that when it comes to the best ways to truly care for the community, UC Davis Medical Center isn’t providing what’s needed.

“We have continued to come to you during the pandemic hoping you would address our concerns about staffing, working conditions and environmental protections, as well as the overwhelming moral distress affecting us at UC Davis Health,” said Melissa Johnson Camacho, who has been a cancer nurse with UC Davis for 13 years. “You have done nothing to support us and facilitate safer working conditions in either the clinics or the hospital. We are currently in the midst of a staffing crisis at UC Davis and have been for quite some time.”

“In September 2021, when we last spoke out on these critical issues, we were told RNs were speaking misinformation. The truth is nurses are getting sick and the staff in the float pool is grossly inadequate. Oftentimes when we’re calling staffing, the response is ‘there’s no one to send for you,’” Camacho continued.

FOX40 reached out to UC Davis Medical Center early Tuesday morning to get the hospital’s response on the issue. A spokesperson sent a statement saying the California Nurses Association was making “broad-brush allegations” about UC Davis Health’s response to the pandemic and recent surge in cases.

“UC Davis Medical Center does not force nurses to work if they are COVID positive,” wrote UC Davis Health Senior Public Information Officer Lisa Howard. “Any employee off the job due to COVID must have a negative COVID test before returning to work or remain away from work until the infection has passed. While other hospitals with short staffing need COVID-positive employees to work, we at UC Davis Medical Center have not had to take this step to provide care for patients.”


Read UC Davis Health’s full statement below:

“Allegations made by the California Nurses Association today are not backed up by facts. The union’s attempt to make one-size-fits-all accusations seem specific (as seen last week in the Bay Area, Las Vegas and Washington DC) do not apply here. These broad-brush allegations do not reflect the facts at UC Davis: At UC Davis Health, we appreciate our dedicated nurses, and we are committed to delivering nationally ranked patient care — even with record-high hospitalization rates in Sacramento and during a national health care worker shortage.

“Among the union’s factual errors:

  • UC Davis Medical Center does not force nurses to work if they are COVID positive. Any employee off the job due to COVID must have a negative COVID test before returning to work or remain away from work until the infection has passed. While other hospitals with short staffing need COVID-positive employees to work, we at UC Davis Medical Center have not had to take this step to provide care for patients.
  • Although some hospitals have applied to the state for permission to make staffing ratio adjustments to help them get through the pandemic, UC Davis Medical Center has not filed a request to modify nurse-to-patient ratios. 
  • Different hospitals have different strategies to keep up with the record numbers of patients. UC Davis Medical Center announced late last week it was one of a few hospitals in the region partnering with the California Department of Public Health to provide additional staffing to care for the increasing number of hospitalized patients.
  • CNA’s allegations are just another example of its one-size-fits-all criticisms that ignore the ongoing pandemic and a national shortage of health care workers. Additionally, UC and CNA are set to start bargaining on a new union contract in the next few months, and activities such as this are part of CNA’s bargaining process.

“Today, UC Davis Medical Center has set a new all-time high for the number of patients hospitalized with COVID-19, with 126 infected patients. According to state and local health dashboards, COVID-19 cases, COVID-19 hospitalizations and Emergency Department visits for COVID-like symptoms (under the “Health Care” tab) set new, all-time-record high numbers for all of Sacramento County over the past week. Even with the challenges of the last two years, our medical center has provided employees with tens of thousands of hours of paid time off and wellness care, and taken many other steps to give staff the time they need to care for themselves and their families, so they can do what they do best — take care of our patients.

  • Despite challenges brought by the pandemic, UC Davis Health is committed to safe staffing for patients, as demonstrated by our ongoing hiring of new nurses. UC Davis Health has hired more than 1,000 new nurses during the pandemic and has a continuing low turnover rate among nurses. Nurses who come to UC stay at UC because they know we care about the care they provide to patients.”