Stanford Hospital recovers from staffing shortages caused by omicron surge

Feb. 9, 2022, 10:20 p.m.

Stanford Hospital is again approaching normal operations after struggling with staffing shortages throughout early January. 

Amid soaring nationwide and local cases caused by the rise of the omicron variant, health care worker infections spiked to all-time highs in California. The resultant staffing shortages prompted Stanford Hospital to postpone non-emergent procedures in early January.

“Between January 8 and January 15, when Omicron was at its height, approximately 7.5% of our total workforce was out sick with COVID-19 or in quarantine,” Stanford Health Care (SHC) spokesperson Julie Greicius wrote in a statement to The Daily.

Now, as COVID-19 case counts in Santa Clara recede from their January highs and infections among health care workers subside, the hospital is nearing normal operations.

“The vast majority of those staff have now returned to work, and new infections are much reduced, affecting only about 1% of our workforce last week and fewer yet this week,” Greicius wrote.

While the SHC staff community has slowly returned to work, cases among patients have also been on the decline. As of Feb. 7, there were 70 patients with active COVID-19 at Stanford Hospital, down from 80 last week, according to Greicius. This case count includes all patients who are potentially infectious and isolating but does not necessarily mean that they are all suffering from severe symptoms. In fact, about 55% of those patients were hospitalized for reasons other than COVID-19, and many of them are asymptomatic or only have mild symptoms. The remaining 45% is mainly made up of high-risk individuals who are unvaccinated or have underlying chronic illnesses, according to Greicius.

Associate professor of medicine Errol Ozdalga, who charts COVID-19 hospitalizations at Stanford Hospital, wrote in a Twitter post that as of Jan. 19, all omicron-positive patients in the intensive care unit had significant predispositions such as a compromised immune system or underlying chronic illness. The lack of non-predisposed patients in the hospital demonstrates the “tremendous value of vaccines for all,” Ozdalga wrote.

Although vaccines are critical to preventing new infections, they do not guarantee immunity — many of the COVID-19 cases recorded in the Stanford community have been among fully vaccinated individuals, according to clinical assistant professor William Collins, a co-collaborator on the charting project.

“We remain worried about our patients with significant underlying medical conditions that affect the immune system,” Collins wrote. “Even with vaccines, these patients can still get very sick.”

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