Nurses hold town hall meetings to address alleged staff shortage

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OCEANSIDE, Calif. -- Nurses at two North County hospitals said short staffing is just one of the things jeopardizing patient safety.

Nurses and the California Nurses Association are hosting town hall meetings to talk about their concerns at Tri-City Medical and Palomar hospitals. The first meeting was held Monday evening in Oceanside.

“Pay is not so much an issue as much as the staffing patterns and the care that we can give to the patients,” Cheryl Bennett, a nurse at Tri-City Medical, said.

Bennett said at times she feels spread too thin.

“They try to staff according to whats mandated by the state law. However, there are times when you have, you say I can only take four patients for instance - and that’s just a hypothetical thing - but I might have patients that are so sick I can only take three,” Bennett said.

The California Nurses Association said short staffing and nurse retention, along with the recent closure of Tri-City's behavioral health unit has affected both hospitals. The association said Palomar nurses are now seeing an increase in those seeking mental health care, but there are not enough caregivers.

“They have issued layoffs in recent months. The current layoffs included an October 3rd layoff of 59 employees,” Sara Gurling, with the California Nurses Association, said.

Palomar Health sent FOX 5 the following statement:

"Palomar Health always operates at or above federal and state guidelines for safe patient care in all areas and did not lay off a single patient caregiver as claimed. In fact we have increased the amount of psychiatric patient sitter hours by 73% over the past three months to appropriately care for the increase in psychiatric patients in our Emergency Departments."

“That is a very carefully crafted word smith PR statement,” Gurling said after reading the statement.

Nurses, and their representatives, are now asking community members to hear them out and study candidates running for the board of directors.

“Asking the public to join us as we fight and strive for these things because at the end of the day the public could be our patients and we want to make sure they have optimal care in our hospital,” Bennett said.

Tri-City Medical officials told FOX 5 they are not commenting.

Nurses will be holding a town hall Wednesday at 6 p.m. in Escondido at the Park Avenue Community Center.

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