Palomar Health nurses protest CEO's pay raise amid layoffs

A pay raise for Palomar Health's CEO, Diane Hansen, sparked a protest by nurses Sept. 15 at Escondido, Calif.-based Palomar Medical Center, The San Diego Union-Tribune reported. 

The protest took place after Ms. Hansen signed a new 27-month contract. Ms. Hansen has led Palomar Health since 2017, and her previous contract expired Sept. 10.

The new contract raises Ms. Hansen's base salary to $910,000, an increase of $110,000 from the previous contract.

Nurses and other hospital workers strongly oppose the CEO pay raise amid layoffs by Palomar Health, and as the health system "has made cuts in departments to make way for restructuring and implemented changes that negatively have affected patient care during the pandemic," the California Nurses Association/Caregivers & Healthcare Employees Union said in a statement released Sept. 14. 

"As patient advocates, nurses and caregivers say they will not be silenced and will continue to speak out on what is best for our patients," the union said in its statement. "Nurses and caregivers believe that Palomar Health should be focused on distributing the district's budget towards PPE and safe staffing for all of us to provide the safe patient care that our community deserves."

Palomar Health Board Chair Richard Engel, MD, outlined the reasoning for the contract in a Sept. 15 news release

Under Ms. Hansen's leadership, the health system has seen various successes, he said, citing improved patient quality rankings and opening a new crisis stabilization unit as some examples.

The Palomar Health news release says the board consulted with multiple nationally recognized experts, and Ms. Hansen's new contract "is commensurate with comparable hospital system CEOs."
"The contract is based on credible, independent and unbiased market analysis that is fair to both Ms. Hansen and the organization," Dr. Engel said in the news release, adding that the effects of the pandemic on executive compensation were taken into account.
"I am confident Diane is the right leader for Palomar Health and I can unequivocally say we are very fortunate to have her as our CEO at this extremely critical time," Dr. Engel said.


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