SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California desperately needs more medical workers at facilities swamped by coronavirus patients, but almost no help is coming from a volunteer program that Gov. Gavin Newsom created at the start of the pandemic. An army of 95,000 initially raised their hands, and just 14 are now working in the field.
Very few volunteers actually met qualifications for the California Health Corps, and only a tiny sliver have the high-level experience needed to help with the most serious virus cases that are stretching intensive care units to the limit.
“Unfortunately, it hasn’t worked out, and the goal is laudable,” said Stephanie Roberson, government relations director for the California Nurses Association.
Newsom formed the Health Corps in anticipation of the cascading crises that California and other states are now experiencing. COVID-19 infections, hospitalizations and intensive care needs are spiraling out of control in the most populous state just as the rest of the nation sees a surge, overwhelming the usual pool of traveling nurses.
Similarly, New York had more than 80,000 medical volunteers respond to a call for help early in the pandemic when it was a hot spot, and some were deployed. But hospitals more often turned to temporary workers to fill the gap, said Jean Moore, director of the Health Workforce Research Center at University at Albany.
Other states, including Illinois, Indiana and Pennsylvania, tried variations of recruiting volunteers with limited results.
“A volunteer corps assumes that it’s pretty easy to slot people in," said Sean Clarke, executive vice dean and professor at New York University’s Rory Meyers College of Nursing. "Figuring out how to do that still hasn’t been fleshed out, I guess.”
California officials say...