By Jason KUROSU
A group of nurses convened at USC Verdugo Hills Hospital Wednesday morning bearing a petition demanding better working conditions, the latest in a series of disagreements between the hospital and its nursing staff leading to resignations and protests from the nurses.
Gathering in front of the office of Paul Czajka, USC Verdugo Hills Hospital chief operating officer, the nurses expressed their grievances with a working environment that they say is often understaffed and lacking proper patient care.
The petition in support of the California Nurses Association contained a total of 1,200 signatures gathered from members of the community at various public events. The petition was left with Czajka’s office, with hopes that it would find its way to the hospital’s top executives.
California Nurses Association Labor Representative Dinorah Williams said that 65% of the hospital’s nurses have quit and a good number of those have not been replaced, except with temporary “traveler” nurses.
Illustrating the lack of staff, Williams said that seeing eight patients cared for by two traveler’s nurses is becoming a common sight.
“Each RN can only have two patients,” said Williams. “This is a gross safety issue.”
However, USC VHH disagreed.
“Our nursing staff has lower than average turnover rates. In fact, our turnover rate is 9.5% for full- and part-time nursing staff which is equal to or below average for other community hospitals in Los Angeles County,” stated Janet Brooks, RN chief nurse administrator of USC VHH.
The nurses shared their issues with Czajka Wednesday morning, emphasizing the lack of permanent staff and medical supplies, such as linen, for patients.
The group wished to ultimately speak with Paul Craig, chief administrative officer at USC Health and Interim CEO at USC Verdugo Hills Hospital, but Craig was unavailable Wednesday.
It is not the first such statement that the nurses have delivered to the hospital’s administration. In September, nurses delivered pillows to the hospital’s upper management as a message indicating the hospital’s insufficient patient care.
But the hospital stands by its patient care.
“USC Verdugo Hills Hospital consistently delivers high-quality patient-centered care,” Brooks stated. “For example, we have received patient satisfaction scores for September and December 2014 in the 85th percentile for responsiveness to patient needs and in the 92nd percentile for cleanliness of patient rooms and bathrooms.
“USC Verdugo Hills Hospital continues to be dedicated to serving the Foothill communities where we have been a lifeline for local residents since 1972. We are committed to providing the highest level of patient safety and care – a commitment that unites our staff, physicians and administrators.”
But patient care isn’t the only issue. Other issues include the lack of a 24-hour pharmacy on the hospital’s premises and salaries that the nurses say are below levels seen at other hospitals.
Above all, Williams said that working in current conditions endangers the nursing licenses of every RN in the hospital.
“Nobody wants to jeopardize their licenses,” said Williams. “The hospital’s budget has prioritized other things over patient care. We want to make sure that the hospital lives up to its previous standards.”
According to the statement, though, the hospital’s standards have remained high.
“USC Verdugo Hills Hospital has been and remains a desirable place to work. It enjoys the loyalty and support of many long-term employees, including RNs,” Brooks stated. “We continue to negotiate in good faith with the California Nurses Association and hope that all issues can be worked out at the bargaining table. The most important goal for our nurses, staff and physicians is to continue to provide the high-quality, compassionate, personalized medical care that our patients have come to rely upon from us as a committed member of the Glendale-La Cañada Flintridge neighborhood community.”