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POWAY, Calif. – Nurses and caregivers at Palomar Health are raising concerns about the hospital system commingling COVID and non-COVID patients and on a new patient to nurse staffing ratio they argue would further strain resources.

Palomar Health officials said the accusation of commingling patients is “completely false.”

“To suggest we are prioritizing anything other than patient safety and public health during an ongoing pandemic is appalling,” the system said in a statement.

The system said a new 3-to-1 ratio comes in preparation of a potential patient surge and has yet to be implemented at any of its hospitals. If needed, the system plans for only one of its facilities — the 12-bed unit at Palomar Medical Center Poway — to implement the new ratio.

But as the pandemic continues a surge that locked San Diego County into a regional stay-at-home order, nurses and others spoke out Monday night at the system’s virtual board meeting.

Many also made their concerns known at a protest held on Friday.

“We are a 12-bed ICU, but we are a feisty ICU,” one nurse said Monday. “We are family down there and for us to be the first ones to change ratios, it was very disheartening.”

In a news release Monday, the California Nurses Association alleges internal documents from administrators at Palomar Medical Center Poway — including a screenshot of an email — show that “dangerous commingling was established as a practice.”

Officials from the California Nurses Association and the Caregiver and Healthcare Employees Union plan to meet with hospital leaders Friday to address concerns.

“These e-mails, the nurses say, are the direct result of the administration’s failure to prioritize safe patient staffing assignments,” the nurses association said.