The Palomar Medical Center in Escondido. Photo courtesy Palomar Health

Unionized nurses Thursday publicly aired complaints that Palomar Health in the inland North County is beset by staffing and supply shortages, as well as high employee turnover.

The allegations come as members of the California Nurses Association/National Nurses United, who work at Palomar Medical Centers in Escondido and Poway, are in their second month of working without a contract.

In a press release sent to the media, union officials said shortages of registered nurses have left some RNs working in operating rooms for 60 hours a week, leading to fatigue and increased workloads for certified nursing assistants.

Turnover of RNs over the last four years has been 42 percent, the unions said.

“Our CEO and his executives are putting patients at risk,” said Sue Phillips, a registered nurse.

“Palomar’s own numbers back up what we have been saying for years, that turnover is high and we cannot retain the staff we need to give safe patient care,” Phillips said. “Unfortunately, the CEO is not prioritizing the patients.”

According to the CNA/NNU, a poll of 1,300 of its members found that 97 percent had no confidence in the CEO, Robert Hemker.

Palomar Health issued a statement in response that said, “Palomar Health continues to negotiate in good faith with the unions to reach a contract agreement. We believe a fair deal can be reached in a timely manner. Safe, high quality care has been, and will continue to be our top priority.”

The nurses said they planned to demand action at a meeting of the Palomar Health Board of Directors on Monday.

–City News Service