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January 17, 2021

Watsonville Hospital nurses plan second demonstration

WATSONVILLE—Two weeks ago, a group of nurses from Watsonville Community Hospital held a roadside demonstration in an attempt to stop hospital officials from increasing nurse-to-patient ratios. They were expected to be back Wednesday, starting at 3:30pm, for a second similar demonstration on Airport Boulevard.

Their concern was a Dec. 11 memo from the California Department of Public Health sent to the state’s general acute care hospitals, that allows them to add more patients to each nurse’s workload in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Since then, WCH registered nurse Roseann Farris says that the hospital has applied for such a waiver. 

It is not clear how, or when, the patient numbers will change. Dan Brothman, CEO of Halsen Healthcare which owns the hospital, declined to comment.

But the demonstration was a way to keep the issue in the public arena, Farris says.

“We’re going out because we want to continue to advocate for their safety in regards to safe staffing,” she said.

Farris acknowledges that hospital administration has been kept busy administering the Covid-19 vaccine to its employees. Brothman says that 600 people there have so far gotten it, including 100 first responders.

Still, with a surge expected from the Christmas holidays, it’s more important than ever to keep the ratios low, Farris said.

“We also know that this surge is not something that is going to go away quickly,” she said. “And we really need to try and come together with the facility to come up with a safe staffing plan. That’s what we’re advocating for.”

Nurse Quiché Rubalcava says that patient care can suffer when nurses have too many to look after. Worse, hospitals everywhere in the state are having the same problem, meaning that it is difficult to transfer them.

“We know that patient care is going to deteriorate if nurses don’t have the time to give the attention that these sick patients deserve,” he said. “What do you do when three of four or four of your five patients are in an emergent situation? Do we start rationing care? We don’t want to be put in that position. And we’re very close to being at that point. We’re at a tipping point.”

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