California nurses use billboard to voice opposition to hospital sale

Nurses at Palm Springs, Calif.-based Desert Regional Medical Center launched a billboard campaign against the sale of the hospital to Dallas-based Tenet Healthcare, according to a Feb. 26 National Nurses United news release.

The California Nurses Association and National Nurses United launched the campaign following two videos that showed what they said was a leak in Desert Regional's neurological intensive care unit and an infestation of cockroaches in the emergency department break room.

The first billboard was put up Feb. 26 and read "Keep Desert a Public Hospital! NO SALE!" The second billboard is scheduled to go up March 5.

Nurses said Tenet has a long-standing practice of short-staffing Desert Regional, which they said has caused patient safety issues.

"Nurses see daily how Tenet's failure to appropriately invest in staff and our infrastructure degrades the care our patients get," Caroline Ng'ang'a, RN, a nurse in the ICU, told the Desert Sun. "We are calling on Tenet to do better and honor its commitment to our community so we can provide everyone the highest quality of care possible."

Deseret Regional is a public asset governed by an elected district board and leased and run by Tenet Healthcare. Tenet is in the process of renegotiating another 30-year lease with the hospital, including an option to purchase at the end of the lease, the result said. 

Desert Care Network — composed of Tenet-operated hospital Desert Regional, JFK Memorial in Indio, Calif., and Hi-Desert Medical Center in Joshua Tree, Calif. — provided the following statement to the Sun:

"The California Nurses Association continues to spread misleading information about Desert Regional. These claims are unwarranted, and these tactics will not change Desert Regional's unwavering commitment to the Coachella Valley. Our hospital takes maintenance and cleanliness standards seriously. This includes addressing repairs needed due to people flushing non-flushable cleaning wipes or issues after heavy rains such as pest control. Consistent with sound operational protocols, we proactively closed areas for a short time to remediate issues. These unrelated occurrences were addressed immediately and disclosed promptly to the staff and the Desert Healthcare District."

The network added that patient safety was "at no time" compromised and the hospital is in compliance with the terms of its lease. 

"We have met all reporting requirements, passed physical plant reviews and site inspections, and have met all timelines for seismic compliance," the statement read.

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