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Patients Allegedly Sleeping in Tents Due to Overcrowding


Providers at the UCSD Jacobs Medical Center in San Diego say their managers are putting patients and staff at risk by overcrowding facilities with gurneys because there aren’t enough beds to go around. The nurses are a part of the California Nurses Association, which represents 18,000 nurses who work in the University of California health system.

The union alleges that management is keeping patients in hallways and other areas that aren’t meant for patient beds. This makes it difficult to navigate the facility. And the nurses said they “are deeply concerned about eroding patient care conditions and the lack of patient privacy and dignity.”

While UC is hiring additional nurses, current staff members say there aren’t enough techs and assistants to accommodate rising demand.

“Patients are also being kept outside in a tent,” said Maria Tan, RN, an emergency department nurse and union representative. “We had a patient whose condition declined, and staff had to spend several minutes running inside the building to get necessary equipment because we didn’t have any outside. We routinely have dozens more admitted patients than we have licensed hospital beds.”

In response to the nurse’s criticism, the health system wrote in a statement that it is doing everything it can to keep up with “unprecedented” demand for its healthcare services.

“The impact is most visible in our emergency departments, where we are seeing a high influx of patients with acute illnesses and conditions that require hospitalization,” the statement reads.

The organization also noted that it “is taking every measure possible to care for these patients and attend to their comfort and needs. UC San Diego Health carefully tracks bed availability, patient discharges, planned procedures, supplies and other data to make timely decisions to expedite bed availability.”

The nurses claim that the management’s boarding style violates state laws regarding where patients can be placed. The hospital confirmed that it is using the practice known as ER boarding to deal with the sudden influx of patients amid the staff shortage.

“Temporary use of overflow areas and periodic ambulance diversion are also being used when necessary,” the health system added. “A special ‘UCSD at Home’ program is also being utilized to allow certain patients with less acute issues to be safely cared for outside of the ED with a combination of telemedicine and nurse home visits.”

The problems extend beyond Jacobs Medical Center. Similar concerns have been raised at two other UC facilities, including UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles and UC San Francisco.

A group of nurses at the San Francisco UC medical center recently held a rally outside the facility to protest the overcrowding.

“We have patients who have been boarded in the emergency department hallway for days, if not longer, leading to further harm for community members already experiencing one of the worst days of their lives,” said Jacob Roush, an emergency department nurse and CNA representative for the San Francisco facility. 

“The infuriating and demoralizing reality is that UCSF can no longer function as the primary provider of emergency medical care in our community. It is the inevitable result of management’s failure to adequately plan for surges and address its staffing crisis.”

Nurses in L.A. organized another demonstration earlier this month. “We have tried to warn UCLA about the existing patient safety issues with shared rooms,” explained Mary Gay Dacquel, RN. “UCLA has ignored our recommendations and refused to tell us their plan after the [California Department of Public Health] waiver expires.”

Steven Briggs
Steven Briggs is a healthcare writer for Scrubs Magazine, hailing from Brooklyn, NY. With both of his parents working in the healthcare industry, Steven writes about the various issues and concerns facing the industry today.

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