Palomar Hospital nurses protest layoffs

Protestors at Escondido's Palomar Medical Center, Monday May 11, 2020/CHEU

After a frustrating couple months — which saw some 300 workers, including nurses, get laid off — Palomar Medical Center nurses once again rallied against the practices of the health care corporation on Monday, May 11.

This time, they’re calling for the resignation of Palomar Health CEO Diane Hansen and the rescinding of layoffs.

“All have lost confidence that she can guide us through this pandemic and through this crisis that our community is facing currently,” said Sue Phillips, a registered nurse, at the action..

“We have no confidence with our CEO she broke the law, laying off people. We’re here to demand all those that were laid off,” said Pacita Balcom, a Palomar Health nurse.

At high noon, picketing nurses delivered the letter to hospital management, with this message: “We demand the contract cancellation of Palomar Health CEO Diane Hansen and the rescinding of illegal layoff notices to 83 RNs and 121 healthcare workers,” said representatives of the California Nurses Association (CNA) and the Caregivers and Healthcare Employees Union (CHEU).

A similar protest was held last month in Poway after the health care facility to show support to workers who were temporarily laid off as a result of the pandemic.

Nurses and CHEU members were also demanding that the public healthcare district adhere to the highest patient safety and health practices. CHEU, a sister union of CNA, membership includes respiratory therapists, nursing aides, and housekeepers.

Nurses said the hospital has failed to provide them with enough personal protective equipment. San Diego County has seen close to 5,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases, along with 175 deaths.

“We don’t have enough PPE that we use in the hospital and safety among nurses, patients, are also in there,” said Beverly Santiago, Palomar RN/Nurse Rep, California Nurses Association.

Hospital management has said the cuts were necessary as it lost $6 million in revenue since the start of the pandemic, as non-emergency and outpatient procedures were put on hold. It said the pandemic, resulted in up to a 50 percent decrease in patient visits. As a result, 267 positions and 50 bedside clinicians were terminated. Seventy of those roles were open while 98 were per diem.

In a sick twist, as the coronavirus pandemic sweeps the nation: The very workers tasked with treating those afflicted with the virus are losing work in droves, according to WLRN-Miami.

Emergency room visits are down. Non-urgent surgical procedures have largely been put on hold. Health care spending fell 18% in the first three months of the year. And 1.4 million health care workers lost their jobs in April, a sharp increase from the 42,000 reported in March, according to the Labor Department. Nearly 135,000 of the April losses were in hospitals.

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