City of Hope nurses plan protest over alleged understaffing, safety failures – Daily News

on Mar10
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Nurses at City of Hope plan to stage a silent protest at the facility Thursday, claiming they’re understaffed and working in an environment of lax COVID-19 safeguards and aging infrastructure.

The workers, represented by California Nurses Association/National Nurses United, say the Duarte cancer treatment and research center’s failure to address critical patient safety and equipment concerns creates unnecessary risks for its immunocompromised patients.

Employees said when nurses are out sick due to COVID-19, that leaves unfilled staffing vacancies and heavier workloads in their wake.

“At the height of the pandemic, City of Hope opened a designated COVID-19 unit,” Duncan said in a statement. “But that unit was closed, and the hospital refused to reopen the unit despite the clear need during the Omicron surge.”

The hospital has also converted single-occupancy rooms into double-occupancy rooms. Nurses say that that’s made it harder to handle the increased patient load.

In a statement issued Wednesday, City of Hope said it has maintained nurse-to-patient ratios that are in line with, and often better than, state-mandated COVID-19 guidelines.

“Delivering the highest quality care while ensuring the safety of our patients, nurses and employees is City of Hope’s top priority,” the hospital said. 

Travel nurses a ‘hindrance’

Chris Harbit, a nurse in the hospital’s bone marrow unit, said staffing in his department is often stretched thin.

“We have an excessive number of nurses who are out on sick call, because they’re symptomatic, have COVID-19, or are caring for family members with COVID,” the 49-year-old Orange resident said. “You can’t take chances. If you have sniffles or a scratchy throat you need to call in sick because we’re dealing with transplant patients who are very sick.”

Harbit said the hospital has increasingly relied on travel nurses to help bridge the gap. But they’re often more of a hindrance than a help because they lack the expertise to adequately care for patients in the bone marrow unit.

Moreover, he said, some critically ill patients are involved in clinical trials and require frequent lab tests and other procedures that can take up more of a nurse’s time.

“When you have one patient on clinical trials and two other patients to deal with there are times when you just can’t be there for everyone so you have to rely on other nurses who hopefully have time to help,” Harbit said. “That makes it difficult to be a good nurse and be there for your patients.”

Lacking access to needed equipment

Another employee said outpatient hematology nurses are being asked to provide COVID-19 patients with blood transfusions without adequate access to necessary equipment, while others say some patients are housed in aging buildings with malfunctioning temperature controls and overflowing toilets, sinks and showers.

“We see new construction all over campus, yet these issues go unaddressed,” said Jasmine Briones, a co-chief nurse representative. “Our patients deserve better.”

City of Hope said its safety protocols and supply of personal protective equipment have helped it successfully navigate the pandemic with zero patient-to-patient transmissions of COVID-19.

“We have worked closely with the California Department of Public Health, as well as with our own infection control experts, to safely create 17 semi-private rooms and provide more patients with access to the premier treatment and care we offer,” management said.

Charles Jones, the union’s labor representative for City of Hope, said nurses are frustrated.

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