Schwarzenegger Announces $13 Million to Boost Nurse Staffing
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's (R) office on Friday announced that it will use $13 million in federal funds to recruit and train more nurses to address staffing shortages, the Sacramento Bee reports. The Labor and Workforce Development Agency will distribute the funds to 18 nursing programs across the state (Benson, Sacramento Bee, 3/19).
The funds will be used to expand education programs, increase interest in nursing careers and train more nurses in rural areas, which have the most severe shortages in the state (AP/Oakland Tribune, 3/19).
The Bee reports that the announcement comes after a Sacramento Superior Court judge ruled that hospitals must implement new nurse staffing rules while the issue is being settled in court. The California Nurses Association has sued to force the governor to implement the new law.
"Patient safety is a top priority for this administration, and we must work to ensure that Californians have access to the health care they deserve," Schwarzenegger said in a statement. "Every effort must be made to help our hospitals and health care providers fill the nursing positions they need to deliver safe, quality patient care," he added (Sacramento Bee, 3/19).
California Hospital Association spokesperson Jan Emerson said, "Every dime is important right now. We have to address the nursing shortage."
CNA said the grants will be useful, the Contra Costa Times reports (Silber, Contra Costa Times, 3/19).
The Oakland Tribune on Monday examined how CNA is not expected to "le[t] up on its relentless campaign against the governor," despite last week's court victory for CNA on the nurse-to-patient ratio dispute. CNA plans to "vigorously protest the governor's proposals to overhaul the state's pension system and change redistricting rules," the Tribune reports.
Schwarzenegger is proposing a series of constitutional amendments, including a proposal to make retirement contributions for state workers similar to private 401(k) plans. The governor will call for a special election if the Legislature does not pass the proposals this year.
CNA President Deborah Burger said the change to the pension system would affect 8,000 CNA members.
"The reality is if he gets away with that, he will go after us again," Burger said, adding, "Just because we had a temporary victory, we can't crawl back into hospitals and pretend nothing else will happen."
Schwarzenegger spokesperson Margita Thompson said, "It would be great if the nurses union would focus their energy on the root causes of the nursing shortage instead of these other issues" (Vesely, Oakland Tribune, 3/21).
KQED's "The California Report" on Friday reported on stress levels among California nurses, who cite "unmanageable" stress as a reason for requesting lower nurse-to-patient ratios. The segment includes comments from Linda Armstrong, a clinical nurse specialist at Children's Hospital; Judy Kemeny, chief of health education at Kaiser Permanente, which offers meditation, drumming and other stress management and relaxation workshops; Christina Maslach, professor of psychology at the University of California-Berkeley; Dr. Peter Schnall, clinical professor of medicine at the University of California-Irvine; and several nurses at Children's Hospital (Kelly, "The California Report," KQED, 3/18). The complete segment is available online in RealPlayer.
Los Angeles Times: "California's action-hero governor is being stalked by ... nurses," a scenario that would be "amusing if it were not a distraction from the real horror story," a Times editorial states. "The governor and the nurses need to put aside posturing and work together or the state's already precarious health care system will be short an estimated 70,000 nurses by 2020," the editorial adds. The editorial "urge[s] the governor and the nurses to seek a compromise" on ratios, ease restrictions on nurses immigrating from foreign countries and find ways to train more nurses in California (Los Angeles Times, 3/19).
- Jim Lott, Ventura County Star: Schwarzenegger's attempt to delay implementation of the nurse staffing rules was "a well-reasoned response to a burdensome, costly and impractical rule," Lott, executive vice president of the Hospital Association of Southern California, writes in a Star opinion piece. "[T]oo many hospitals are closing their emergency departments or their entire hospitals due to financial stress," and Schwarzenegger "did what needed to be done to save the emergency medical services system," Lott adds (Lott, Ventura County Star, 3/18).