*PRESS RELEASE* Nurses sound alarm on SoCal’s hospital staffing crisis: Patient safety watchdog agency turns blind eye

Nurses Rally outside Dept of Public Health - sm

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:   November 6, 2017
CONTACT: Terry Carter, (805) 312-0024

San Bernardino, CA—The Registered Nurses and Healthcare Professionals of SEIU Local 121RN, joined by Senate Health Committee Chair Dr. Ed Hernandez, Senate Health Committee Member Connie Leyva and Assemblymember Eloise Gómez Reyes, gathered in front of the San Bernardino offices of the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) to decry the agency’s top level administrators’ slow, inadequate—often nonexistent—responses to official complaints against Southern California hospitals’ illegal and dangerous lack of staffing.

Nurses spoke passionately of unnecessary serious injury and even death in hospitals across the southland that they said were directly attributable to illegally low staffing of nurses, as well as grossly inadequate staffing of support personnel.

“We’re here today to hold CDPH administrators accountable,” said SEIU Local 121RN President Gayle Batiste, a Clinical Registered Operating Room Nurse at Northridge Hospital Medical Center. “We’re doing our part.  We report patient safety violations to CDPH over and over again, yet we’ve not seen the critical corrective measures needed to ensure that problems are remedied. What good does it do for us to blow the whistle on patient safety if the agency tasked with investigating and enforcing the law doesn’t respond?”

Ground level Surveyors with CDPH say their hands are tied by a bureaucracy that prevents them from holding hospitals accountable until a death or serious injury results. Nurses following up on resolution to their complaints of dangerously low staffing have been rebuffed with dismissive official responses such as “what do you want the hospital to do?” or “we’d take action if there was a resulting death.”

Nurses say that this has emboldened hospitals to view Title 22 regulations as “recommendations” or “guidelines.” They are not recommendations. They are bare minimums. Shame on the Department of Public Health for sending a message to our hospitals that these bare-bones nurse-to-patient ratios are some kind of unattainable ideal.

“CDPH leadership sends a dangerous message to area hospitals when it does not demand a remedy: it’s okay to ignore required staffing minimums,” said Labor and Delivery Nurse Kerry Cavazos. “And nurses who stand up to hospitals and refuse illegal assignments that endanger patients are often disciplined by their employers—even suspended—in an attempt to silence them. Nurses will not wait for another patient death to move CDPH.”

“As a healthcare provider and as a Senator, I remain committed to quality healthcare and patient safety,” said State Senator Dr. Ed Hernandez, who represents much of the San Gabriel Valley. “It’s critically important that nurses have the support they need in order to provide the best care possible for our family and friends. That’s why, a few years ago, I introduced legislation to strengthen the inspections, penalties and policies governing Title 22’s minimum nurse-to-patient ratios. However, the problem of nurses being short-staffed has reached crisis levels. It was important for me to join SEIU Local 121RN members, and applaud their efforts to seek lasting solutions to improve patient care. Let’s give them the tools they need in order to care for our communities.”

——-CHECK OUT THE GIANT COMPLAINT FORM WE UNVEILED TODAY——-
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Service Employees International Union, Local 121RN represents 8,500 registered nurses and other healthcare professionals at 23 hospitals in Los Angeles and surrounding counties. This member-led organization is committed to supporting optimum working conditions that allow nurses to provide quality patient care and safety.

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