Palomar Health nurses and caregivers to strike at Poway, Escondido hospitals

Palomar Health nurses and caregivers plan to go on strike on June 23, citing delayed contract negotiations and staffing problems.

The picket next Thursday is scheduled for 7 to 9 am on the sidewalk of Pomerado Road to the main entrance of Palomar Medical Center Poway.

There will also be a group gathered from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on the sidewalk of Citracado Parkway to the main entrance of the driveway to Palomar Medical Center Escondido.

Presented by the California Association of Nurses and the Union of Nursing and Health Care Professionals, members voted on June 7 and June 8 to give 10 days notice to the Palomar Health Administration that they intend to suspend work for one day.

In a statement, the unions said they had been in talks for 14 months without reaching satisfactory agreements with the health region managed by Palomar, declaring an “illegal stalemate” and imposing “conditions without the union’s consent”.

The unions accuse Palomar of “managing many skeletal staff”, including trauma, intensive care and emergency departments, indicating that too few workers have been available “since Palomar introduced redundancies in the midst of the pandemic” in 2020.

Hospital chief executive Diane Hansen said in a statement that the unions’ allegations “do not accurately reflect everyone’s opinion”.

“We will remain focused on our primary mission, which is to provide San Diego County and surrounding communities with access to emergency health care and services,” Hansen said.

According to Palomar Health, negotiations are stalled on economic and personnel issues, such as sailing / layoffs and withdrawals. It says “the union’s $ 400-500 million economic requirements are simply not available” and would negatively affect the district’s mission to offer the highest quality healthcare.

Nearly 3,000 nurses and other caregivers are represented at Palomar’s hospitals in Escondido and Poway, although Palomar said in a statement that those who do not pay union dues cannot vote.

According to Palomar Health, unions represent 70 percent of nurses and caregivers in the hospital area.

Some officials who could not vote, Palomar said, were shocked by the strike decision. The union did not respond to a request to verify this allegation.

“For this reason, the decision to strike was a shock to many, as the responses we received from Palomar Health nurses and caregivers were extremely positive,” the Palomar statement said.

The last time Palomar Health and the unions finalized a contract was on May 31, 2021.

According to Palomar Health, CNA and CHEU contractors increased their salaries by an average of 4 percent in April. From July, registered nurses and caregivers will receive another salary increase of 4 percent on average. This will continue with another 4 percent average increase in July 2023 and another 4 percent average increase in July 2024.

“This is an overall increase of more than 16 percent – a highly competitive package that doubles other health systems,” said Palomar Health officials. “The benefits are estimated at 38 percent of the compensation compared to market competitors at 25 percent.”

Some other changes include an increase in the minimum wage for all caregivers to $ 16 per hour and there is an increase in the percentage of the bonus associated with paying for longevity. There is also special pay in difficult-to-fill areas of surgery, the emergency department, women’s services, intensive care units, cardiac catheter labs, interventional radiology, preoperative care and the post-acute care unit, officials said.

The Northern District Health System said it had organized 200 “traveling” nurses working on temporary contracts to fill those who decided to picket next Thursday. Palomar said he could “consider some decompressive patient volume” that “could include a slight effect on elective surgery”, but did not provide an estimate of how many cases might need to be postponed.

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