VENTURA COUNTY: Nurses Fired After Compensation Dispute
Community Memorial Hospital in Ventura County fired four ER nurses Wednesday "after a dispute over salary and the treatment of an elderly intensive care patient," the Ventura County Star reports. The dismissals stemmed from an incident that occurred Saturday, when the nurses "arrived at work and found an intensive care patient housed in the emergency room because of a bed shortage" (Koehler, 4/23). The ER nurses were miffed because the hospital, "[f]ollowing the lead of two Oxnard hospitals," had granted $5-per-hour pay hikes to nurses in the coronary and intensive care units but not to the ER nurses. The ER nurses allegedly refused to care for the patient until they were granted the same pay as the ICU nurses. Calling it an "unconscionable act," Carol Dimse, assistant executive director of Community, said, "I'm a nurse, and the reason they were fired was because they refused to provide care to a patient who needed it. That is totally against everything that nursing stands for. They said, 'We all agreed that we are not going to take over and care for this patient unless we get the $5-an-hour bonus.' They basically said, 'We just decided that this was the time to take a stand'" (AP/Bakersfield Californian, 4/22).
Not the Way It Happened?
The nurses, however, tell a different story. "There was never any lapse of care of the patient; we as nurses in that department would not allow that," said one of the four, adding, "We made sure the patient was taken care of, and if no one could, we would have taken on his care regardless of salary." Other nurses at the hospital this week protested the firings and refused to work overtime to cover the shift vacancies (Star, 4/23). The AP/Californian reports that the dispute is indicative of nursing shortages that have plagued the region of late. According to a recent survey, "Southern California's 58 hospitals have 833 vacancies" between them (4/22).