State Inspectors Find Nurse Staffing Ratio Violations at Three Sharp Hospitals
Inspectors from the Department of Health Services have found that three Sharp HealthCare hospitals in San Diego did not comply with nurse-to-patient staffing ratios during nurses' breaks or lunches, the San Diego Union-Tribune reports. DHS in May conducted unannounced inspections at the hospitals -- Sharp Memorial Hospital, Sharp Mesa Vista Hospital and Sharp Mary Birch Hospital for Women -- after nurses, who at the time were involved in labor contract negotiations with the company, complained that the hospitals were violating state-mandated nurse staffing ratios (Freeman, San Diego Union-Tribune, 8/11).
The new regulations on staffing, which took effect Jan. 1, require hospitals to set a nurse-to-patient ratio at the beginning of a shift and maintain it throughout the shift, including during nurses' breaks. The new rules also state that nurses do not have to care for more than eight patients at a time (California Healthline, 5/27).
DHS inspectors in June also responded to nurses' complaints at Sharp Grossmont Hospital but found that the facility had complied with staffing ratio requirements.
Sharp has met a June deadline to submit to inspectors a plan to address the staffing violations at the three hospitals. According to Jennifer Jacoby, chief nursing officer for the Sharp metropolitan medical campus, Sharp's correction plan includes increasing nurse recruitment; paying nurses bonuses to work during lunches and breaks; and supplementing nursing duties with management and clinical staff.
Jacoby said Sharp does "a pretty good job" following ratio requirements "given the national shortage of nurses."
Sharp officials from the Mary Birch Hospital said in a statement to inspectors that "we consistently meet the intent of the regulation at the beginning of each shift," but "it is not always possible to maintain the ratios for the purposes of breaks and lunches."
Chris McGovern, president of the nurses' union, said that while Sharp denied the staffing problems during labor contract negotiations, the inspectors' findings show that "[o]ur concerns have been validated" (San Diego Union-Tribune, 8/11).