Statement: As COVID Emergency Ends, UNAC/UHCP Calls on CDPH to Enforce Nurse-to-Patient Ratios

February 28, 2023

For more information, contact

UNAC/UHCP issued the following statement on the end of California COVID-19 State of Emergency calling for swift regulatory action on chronic understaffing of bedside nurses:

Today marks the end of Governor Gavin Newsom’s COVID-19 State of Emergency and—the much-needed return to vigilant enforcement of our state’s leading nurse-to-patient ratios.

Bedside nurses are exhausted, frustrated, and rethinking their careers. Since last fall’s announcement that the state of emergency was ending, our employers have had plenty of time to address staffing challenges. Chronic understaffing continues to thwart the care efforts of dedicated nurses, who spend more with patients than any other health care professional. Our members of UNAC/UHCP report these conditions to their management and the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) in significant numbers but are largely ignored. Thus, we call on the CDPH and other affiliated agencies to use their regulatory powers to protect our patients and caregivers from severe understaffing.

We urge CDPH to immediately:

  • increase its responses to caregiver complaints about unsafe conditions
  • be more transparent in its investigations of facilities flagged by health professionals
  • improve documentation and enforcement of fines

The state’s pandemic response saved tens of thousands of lives, protected families, and set a new public health standard. As health care professionals, we support swift and effective responses to outbreaks.

Science and data paved the way to decisive pandemic responses. Science and data also show that patients heal and thrive when sufficient numbers of bedside nurses provide the best care in the best conditions. We risk undoing any benefits to public health by ignoring safe ratios created by California law and collective bargaining agreements.

Read our UNAC/UHCP Special Report: We Must Take Action Now As National Nursing Shortage Reaches Dangerous Levels: