COVID putting additional strain on emergency rooms in Central Florida

Hospitals in dire need of more staff as nurses work 12-hour shifts, barely get breaks, worker says

Nurses are under immense pressure as the omicron variant spreads and traffic ramps up in hospitals in Central Florida.

Elisabeth Mathieu is a registered ER nurse at Osceola Regional Medical Regional Center.

She said nurses are working 12-hour shifts, barely getting breaks and the hospital is in dire need of more staff.

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“You definitely need a very strong mind, very strong mental health to be able to survive in the ER where I’m working. This is why so many of our staff members are leaving,” Mathieu said.

She said many nurses are quitting their jobs and seeking employment as traveling nurses or leaving the profession altogether.

President and CEO of the Florida Hospital Association Mary Mayhew said staffing is also being directly impacted by COVID-19.

“That has affected our staff, that [has] affected nurses and physicians. They’ve been out sick it has made it difficult for hospitals to staff certain services,” Mayhew said.

Mathieu said nurses are forced to wear many hats.

“The nurse is doing the lifesaving drugs, running to help the patient go to the bathroom, helping the patient clean himself,” she said.

Adriana Cuazo is also a nurse at Osceola Regional Medical Center. She works in the intensive care unit.

“All of the nurses are really tired, there [is] no motivation,” Cuazo said.

She said she would quit her job if she could, but she must continue to work to support her family.

Cuazo said she feels guilty because she is not able to give her all to patients.

“I am really sorry that I cannot give more I wish, I wish I can give more, but trust me we’re doing our very best,” Cuazo said.

A representative for Osceola Regional Medical Center sent us this statement:

Here at Osceola Regional Medical Center, the safety of our patients and caregivers is our number one priority, especially as we contend with the latest surge of COVID-19 here in Orlando.

In order to keep our colleagues and our patients safe, we have a number of policies in place to protect our entire hospital against COVID, including requiring universal masking for employees and visitors, providing all team members with the necessary PPE (including N95s,) and complying with infection control best practices.

As we have done throughout the pandemic, we continue to follow guidance from the CDC and our own infectious disease experts when it comes to quarantining due to COVID. Team members who are isolating due to a positive test will continue to be paid during the time period recommended by the CDC for quarantining, and there are resources available to help our colleagues who need it.

Our Osceola Regional Medical Center team has been working extremely hard – both during this latest surge and for the past two-plus years as we’ve battled COVID – and we’re proud of how everyone has worked together to provide high-quality care to our patients during this critical time.

Our fight against COVID is not over quite yet, and external activity like the upcoming NNU day of action will not distract from our focus of caring for our Orlando community. We will continue to work tirelessly to keep our entire Osceola Regional Medical Center family safe so we can provide high-quality care to the patients and communities we serve.

As always, we want our patients to know that we are all in this together – Osceola Regional Medical Center will remain a steadfast resource for care for our community during COVID-19 and beyond.

Cuazo does agree with the hospital’s statement.

“I don’t feel like I’m giving a high quality of care. It’s just impossible,” she said.

Mathieu said lately nurses have been taking on five patients at once.

“This patient is in dire need for more of me and I can’t give that person more of me because I have so many patients,” she said.

The nurses are pleading with hospitals to improve work conditions.

“We need the hospitals to staff properly, we need safe staffing because safe staffing saves lives,” Mathieu said.

Cauzo said some nurses are worried they will lose their nursing licenses if families decide to make a complaint. So, instead of taking that risk, she said they are resigning.

Beyond hiring more staff, nurses are also asking for a retention bonus so they feel recognized for their hard work.

Adding, the amount of work they do daily is not reflected in how much they are paid.


About the Author:

Treasure joined News 6 at the start of 2021, coming to the Sunshine State from Michigan.