California county's nurses push for competitive wages

Registered nurses and healthcare professionals who work for Ventura County's health system have taken their concerns about staffing, pay and benefits to the county's board of supervisors, the Ventura County Star reported.

Dozens of workers represented by the California Nurses Association told board members on March 14 that they are seeking a pay increase and a cost-of-living adjustment in pensions as part of a new contract, according to the report. 

The union represents more than 700 nurses and healthcare professionals with Ventura County. Contract talks began in December of 2022, and the current deal expires on March 17.  

Union members contend that too many experienced nurses leave for nearby facilities with better compensation and better working conditions. 

"Now we are calling on Ventura County to stand with us as we negotiate a contract that will improve patient care and demonstrate the respect that nurses and healthcare professionals deserve so that we can stop this revolving door," Gina Parcon, an ICU nurse at Santa Paula (Calif.) Hospital, said in a news release shared with Becker's.

According to union member Katie Dornbos, a neonatal intensive care nurse at Ventura (Calif.) County Medical Center, the union is asking for a pay boost of more than 20 percent over the life of the contract and the county is offering less than 15 percent.  

Barry Zimmerman, director of a Ventura County Health Care Agency that operates two hospitals and a network of clinics, said the health system is grappling with workforce shortages and is offering retention and hiring bonuses, the Ventura County Star reported. He declined to comment on specific contract issues because he is not part of negotiations but expressed optimism that both sides will come to an agreement, according to the publication.

"We are trying to work toward a competitive wage within the safety net system we operate," he said, according to the Ventura County Star.

Additional bargaining sessions are scheduled.

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