By CBSLA Staff

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) —With healthcare staff overwhelmed amid this most recent COVID-19 surge, hospitals around the Southland are canceling elective surgeries, everything from joint replacements to gallbladder surgeries this week.

“It’s literally a challenge finding a warm body because there are so many out sick and unavailable to work,” said senior vice president and CSO at Methodist Hospital, Clifford Daniels.

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With 100 of its 1800 full-time staff positive for COVID-19, the Arcadia hospital is scrambling to keep up with the never-ending tsunami of patients.

“We have a 26-bed ER here at Methodist hospital and there were I believe something upwards of 90 patients in the ER waiting to be admitted (and) treated,” Daniels said. “The real thing I’ve never seen before… was there were 12 ambulances stacked outside the ER waiting to drop patients off. We had no room. They were just waiting there.”

In need of help, the hospital took a step that many hospitals in Los Angeles County were taking and canceled all elective surgeries, at least 50 operations, in order to free up employees.

“It allows us to redeploy nurses that would have been doing surgery, to other areas of the of the hospital,” Daniels said.

Memorial Hospital in Gardena followed suit, also canceling elective surgeries while Coast Hospital Plaza only postponed some.

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In an effort to bolster the rosters of healthcare workers, the California Department of Health announced new guidelines that allowed front-line workers who tested positive for COVID to continue working as long they are asymptomatic.

“For the first time my 50 years I’ve been thinking ‘Maybe it’s time to get out,'” said respiratory therapist Gisella Thomas. “This is absolutely, absolutely ridiculous. This is asinine.”

Thoms is concerned for the well-being of herself and her coworkers and said it directly contradicts the very premise of health care.

“Now you don’t even know if the person you’re working with is COVID positive and maybe spreading it,” she said. “Why are you doing this to us healthcare workers. We were heroes and now we are COVID carriers.”

When asked about the confusion caused by this policy, Gov. Gavin Newsom did not directly answer the question and referred to the state’s successful track record of responding to various waves of the pandemic.

“Omicron variant creates different stresses…Different challenges,” he said.

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