TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) -The CEO of Tucson Medical Center sent a letter to Pima County School Superintendent Dustin Williams, urging him to expand in-person learning options. The hospital says at-home learning is leading to staff shortages at a critical time in the battle against COVID-19 but, teachers worry the move could be too much, too fast.
“It requires more than a bed. You have to have people provide that compassionate expert care,” said Julia Strange, the Vice President of Community Benefit at TMC.
Strange says because of challenges presented by online schooling, many of their workers on the front lines have opted to stay home with their families.
“We very much understand but it is creating a burden," said Strange.
It’s because of this that they’re asking elementary schools to look closer at hybrid learning options. In her letter to school superintendents, TMC CEO Judy Rich says “Contact tracing has demonstrated that when elementary schools have identified cases within their population, those children acquired the virus at home or in other community settings.”
“As a teacher I have to say it’s a very hard position for both of us to be in," said Amy Singletary, a Tucson elementary school teacher. "Its that kind of catch 22 we feel back for both sides.”
Singletary is also a mother of two, she says she misses being in the classroom with her students but wants to make sure she, her kids and her students are all staying safe and not causing further spread of the virus.
“We are hearing more about 10 and under not having as many problems," said Singletary. "But for my son who has autism he has a suppressed immune system so exposing him more is always a concern for me.”
“We’re not saying open the doors and let everyone in," said Strange. "What were saying is a thoughtful well planned-out approach to a hybrid model in elementary schools can be most beneficial to the health of our community.”
Strange says her staff is opting to move from full time to part time or even per-diem.
“Each one of those actions directly impacts our ability to care for patients," said Strange.
She says the hospital has tried to help employees.
“We have offered a variety of options for child care, including some through the Boys and Girls Club and other agencies," said Strange.
Strange says employees are still opting to stay at home.
Singletary says she understands the critical issue hospitals are facing, but says some of her fellow teacher who are older and have pre-existing are fearful.
“They definitely don’t want to go back they’re very scared," said Singletary. "We have family members that we take care of that are elderly... all of these things that are too risky.”
TMC says they’re facing critical staff shortages- they say vacancies among nursing positions are about 50-percent higher today than they were at this time last year.