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Hueso demands audit of public nursing resources
San Diego Union-Tribune - 8/19/2017
Aug. 18--Already tense relations between county government and union members frayed a bit more Friday as state Sen. Ben Hueso demanded a state audit of San Diego County public health resources, alleging that current staffing levels for public health nurses do not meet state guidelines.
Hueso stood with members of Service Employees International Union Local 221 in San Diego and announced that he recently sent a letter to the state legislature's Joint Committee on Legislative Audit requesting that the panel "determine whether adequate levels of county public health nurses are available to appropriately serve the residents of San Diego County."
The current dust up between the senator and the county involves California Children's Services, a program that provides care to kids and young adults with medical problems ranging from cancer and cerebral palsy to traumatic injuries and infectious diseases.
On Thursday afternoon, Hueso's office released a statement claiming that 18 nurses serving the program average 760 cases each, a number that is nearly double the 400 cases per nurse recommended in guidelines published by the California Department of Health Care Services.
Hueso also makes the case that nurses the county's Health and Human Services Agency "is pulling nurses from their prior assignments" to help investigate an ongoing hepatitis A outbreak which has killed 11 people, and hospitalized nearly 200, over the past six months.
Hueso's statement also indicates that the county was "slow to respond" to the outbreak, a statement that the county rebutted in a single-paragraphy statement of its own issued Friday afternoon.
"County Public Health Services has been aggressive in its response. While the county is leading the response, we are also working with a number of local agencies and healthcare organizations, the California Department of Public Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention," the statement said.
But the county did not directly address the children's services numbers in Hueso's statement which the senator's spokesperson said were obtained from a "staffing sheet provided to nurses" which was forwarded to the senator's office.
While it did not directly address the nurse-to-case ratios that Hueso cites, the county did say in more general terms that the services it provides "often meet or exceed established program standards and performance measures. These include performance measures for California Children's Services, compliance rates for providing both medical and dental exams for foster children and ensuring high quality care for patients in our psychiatric hospital."
The county is currently embroiled in thorny contract negotiations with SEIU Local 221 which represents the nurses in question. Each side has accused the other in public of bargaining in bad faith.
Hueso's letter asks the state legislative audit committee to decide on whether or not to take up his request at its next scheduled meeting on Aug. 30.
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