VENTURA COUNTY: Nursing Shortage Forces St. John’s to Cut Beds
In a move "dramatizing" the state's nursing shortage, St. John's Regional Medical Center in Oxnard announced yesterday it will close an acute-care wing "because it can no longer afford to hire expensive substitute nurses," the Los Angeles Times reports. The hospital also said it will hike salaries of critical care nurses 24%, or $5 an hour -- a move that "could ignite a bidding war for nurses with other hospitals in the county." Administrator Jim Hoss said despite record patient volumes, the hospital has lost money during the first eight months of the fiscal year. "The increased patient volume forces us to use the most expensive labor. So we've gotten squeezed," he said. Dr. Allen Hooper, head of the emergency room, said that "because of our low reimbursement, we're so deeply in the toilet, the hospital is at risk of going under financially. This is a short-term solution. But no one in this hospital is happy about it." St. John's will empty 31 of its 256 beds, forcing some patients "to go to hospitals in other communities." Hoss said labor costs per patient in the affected wing have risen more than $800 a day, compared with the typical cost of $500 a day (Kelley, 3/18).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.