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Demonstration draws attention to staffing problems at hospital

El Paso Times, 8/18/11

By Vic Kolenc
EL PASO TIMES
August 18, 2011

About 50 nurses and their family members and friends held an hour-long informational picket today outside Las Palmas Medical Center to bring public attention to what the nurses say is a staffing problem hurting patient care at the hospital.

The demonstration was organized by a national nurses union, which has been negotiating a contract with Las Palmas and Del Sol medical centers since last September.

Terri Little-Verdugo, a registered nurse at Las Palmas and a member of the union's negotiating team, said the hospital's staffing policies have been broken many times in at least two hospital units. That's resulted in nurses having to care for more patients than established under hospital
standards.

"We are asking the hospital to staff in a way that is consistent with its own commitment to the community," Little-Verdugo said. "These standards are critical to safe patient care."

Las Palmas issued a statement saying "patient care is our first and absolute priority every day."

"We have been bargaining with the union in good faith and will continue to do so," the statement read. "However, we do not 'negotiate in the media' and we are not going to discuss topics that are currently being discussed at the bargaining table."

Karleen George, lead labor representative for the National Nurses Organizing Committee-Texas/National Nurses United, said hospital officials have rejected the union's proposal to put national nurse staffing standards in the contract now being negotiated for Las Palmas and and its sister hospital, Del
Sol.

Today's demonstration, which included nurses from Las Palmas and Del Sol, was aimed at bringing public attention to the problem, and also to try to get hospital administrators to negotiate on the issue, George said.

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