watsonville community hospital nurse rally
Registered nurse Tiyana Shields leads a rally at the entrance to Watsonville Community Hospital Tuesday evening. Photo: Tarmo Hannula/The Pajaronian

Roughly 100 nurses who work at Watsonville Community Hospital gathered at the intersection of Airport Boulevard and Nielsen Street Tuesday to call attention to a recent scheduling change they say affects the way they do their job.

The nurses were speaking out against a decision by hospital administration—which was approved in 2022 by the Pajaro Valley Healthcare District Board of Directors—that requires all nurses to work full-time, eliminating most part-time positions.

“We are asking the employer to reconsider,” says Annabelle Covington, who has been a nurse in the labor and delivery department for 21 years. “We need to retain and recruit nurses, and in order to do that we need more part-time positions.”

As a result of the decision, Covington says, 42 nurses resigned, leaving the hospital short-staffed and requiring the use of traveling nurses.

“They live here, they wanted to work here, but because they couldn’t have a good work-life balance they decided they couldn’t stay here,” she says.

WCH Interim CEO Matko Vranjes says those numbers are not entirely accurate.

“We actually had 29 benefitted nurses that have left since August 31,” he says. “Of those, 21 were full-time nurses. So only three that were part-time that potentially left for that reason.”

Vranjes also says that the 183 nurses—amounting to 164 full-time equivalent employees—is a larger number than before last year’s transition to being a community-owned hospital.

The reason for the change, he says, was the unsustainable amount of overtime pay—as much as double time—the part-time employees were making.

“The previous model wasn’t sustainable,” he says. “You can’t continue to pay higher-than-normal rates for staffing and be successful.”

Still, emergency room nurse Quiché Rubalcava said the “arbitrary, unilateral change” to the schedule occurred without bargaining from the union.

The staffing loss that followed, Rubalcava says, was a “tragedy.”

“Those nurses were committed to the hospital,” he says. “They were on the front lines of Covid, they fought through the bankruptcy, and then they were told that their schedules had to change without any say and without the union.” 

Rubalcava says the hospital’s claim of making the change to save money backfired, since the existing nurses are working more to fill the shifts left by the part-timers, and required bringing in traveling nurses.

ICU nurse Tiyana Shields says the nurses warned the administration of the potential consequences of the scheduling change, which they did not heed.

“We were ignored, and now here we are and it’s getting worse,” she says. “We’re still losing nurses.”

As the California Nurses Association prepares to go to contract negotiations with the hospital in July, the nurses are hoping administrators will restore part-time positions, which Vranjes says is a possibility.

“We’re very hopeful of this being a new day as we’ve entered community ownership, and that we’ll get to a good resolution and make sure the facility is sustainable and stable for a long time to come. and we’ll keep working toward that goal,” he says.

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General assignment reporter, covering nearly every beat. I specialize in feature stories, but equally skilled in hard and spot news. Pajaronian/Good Times/Press Banner reporter honored by CSBA. https://pajaronian.com/r-p-reporter-honored-by-csba/


  1. This is the great thing, if you dont like your work situation, you can leave and find a better one where you can demonstrate your skills and value and in return, you earn a favorable schedule, among other perks.

    I will say that if management needed to take over the hospital in order to save it from closure, then it wasn’t in good operational shape to begin with and maybe scheduling and staff is part of that problem. As a person who has had to go to several of the regions major hospitals (salinas, monterey, santa cruz) – Watsonville has been far and away the worst experience thus far. Run down facility, apathetic staff, insane wait times – it felt like a walmart sized Doctors on Duty.

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    • Johnson C,
      We hear your concerns about our hospital, and we recognize that 20 years of for-profit ownership of the hospital was not good for our community. The good news is we’re now publicly and community owned as a nonprofit. That means funds we generate will now be reinvested back into the hospital to improve patient care. We are working hard every day to achieve financial stability and sustainability for our organization in order to provide quality healthcare for our community for years to come. We are also committed to engaging with community members to listen and to be able to meet their healthcare needs. We encourage you to reach out to us directly at [email protected] and/or attend a public session of an upcoming board meeting. The next meeting is Wednesday, June 28, 5pm at 85 Neilson St, Watsonville. More information can be found at http://www.pvhcdhc.org.

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  2. My sister was a patient there in emergency room before being transferred to Stanford Hospital. There was a crazy woman walking around freely in emergency patient’s rooms and walked into my sister’s room disturbing us and refused to leave. I asked nursing staff to remove this obviously crazy and drunk women from my very ill sister’s room, and the staff said there was nothing they could do. I will never ever again go to WH. You never see this behavior at Stanford or any other hospital. This crazy woman could have had a weapon and still the staff wouldn’t have done anything to protect other patients. I was so shocked at the nursing staff and their response.

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    • Pa Watsonville,
      We are as shocked as you to hear this, as it does not in any way reflect our operating procedures. We take this kind of report very seriously and respectfully request that you call us at 831-724-4741, ext. 1587. We need a few more specific details so we can investigate this situation.

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