UCSD nurses allege 'eroding patient care conditions'

Members of the California Nurses Association are alleging unsafe overcrowding at San Diego-based UCSD Health's Jacobs Medical Center.

The union represents about 18,000 nurses at University of California medical facilities, according to a March 14 news release. Jacobs is a 364-bed medical center that provides inpatient care and also includes surgical facilities, outpatient clinics, a blood bank and a pharmacy.

Union members allege that hospital management is placing emergency room patients on gurneys in hallways and other areas not designed for patient beds, which they say violates patient privacy and risks patient and nurse safety.

The nurses said they "are deeply concerned about eroding patient care conditions and the lack of patient privacy and dignity." They also contend that UC has hired some extra nurses, but there are not enough techs or other workers to keep up with patient demand. 

"Patients are also being kept outside in a tent," Maria Tan, RN, emergency department nurse and CNA nurse representative, said in the union release. "We had a patient whose condition declined, and staff had to spend several minutes running inside the building to get necessary equipment because we didn't have any outside. We routinely have dozens more admitted patients than we have licensed hospital beds."

UC San Diego Health emphasized its focus on the safety of patients, visitors and team members while acknowledging the nurses' concerns.

"Like hospitals throughout California, UC San Diego Health is currently experiencing unprecedented demand for its medical and surgical care, a need which is outpacing available hospital beds. The impact is most visible in our emergency departments, where we are seeing a high influx of patients with acute illnesses and conditions that require hospitalization," the health system said in a statement shared with Becker's.

UC San Diego Health also said it "is taking every measure possible to care for these patients and attend to their comfort and needs. UC San Diego Health carefully tracks bed availability, patient discharges, planned procedures, supplies and other data to make timely decisions to expedite bed availability."

Based on need, UC San Diego Health said it is, when possible, staffing above required nursing ratios.

"Temporary use of overflow areas and periodic ambulance diversion are also being used when necessary," the health system added. "A special 'UCSD at Home' program is also being utilized to allow certain patients with less acute issues to be safely cared for outside of the ED with a combination of telemedicine and nurse home visits."

Nurses at Jacobs plan to hold a rally about their concerns March 16. Nurses at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles and University of California San Francisco have also held protests related to similar concerns.

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