Palm Springs nurses fight for hospital’s future

Submitted by ADonahue on
Large group of nurses outside Desert Regional Medical Center smiling

Desert Regional Medical Center RNs sound the alarm at public forum

By Rachel Berger

National Nurse magazine - April | May | June 2024 Issue

Nurses at Desert Regional Medical Center (DRMC) in Palm Springs, Calif. participated in a public forum in March regarding the future of the public hospital, which is currently leased by Tenet Healthcare, a massive health care corporation worth more than $9 billion. At the forum, hosted by the Desert Healthcare District and Foundation, nurses spoke out about the failure of Tenet to properly maintain the facility, fix vital medical equipment, and staff units appropriately. California Nurses Association represents more than 850 nurses at DRMC.

“Right now the people of Coachella Valley have an opportunity to weigh in on the future of Desert Regional Medical Center,” said Lonnie Ducote, a registered nurse in the emergency room. “Now is the time to demand Tenet address the problems at our hospital, including leaks and pests, so our patients can get the highest quality of care.”

Nurses have been sounding the alarm for months about the persistent problems at the hospital, including inadequate staffing, broken equipment, chronic plumbing issues, and rodents. In February, the nurses released video evidence of extensive leaking in the neurological intensive care unit and a cockroach infestation in the emergency department’s break room. Shortly after, on Feb. 27, the Riverside County Department of Environmental Health closed down one kitchen after inspectors discovered “signs of active vermin infestation.”

The inspector noted:

  • Live cockroaches crawling on the floor, walls, and convection oven at the back cookline

  • Rodent droppings and signs of nesting in the fryer cabinets at the front cookline

  • Rodent droppings on the floor of the "disaster" storage room

  • Rodent droppings in the drawers by the coffee and tea machines 

  • Operator-provided logs showing that this is an ongoing issue that Tenet was aware of.

“Tenet tries to dismiss and deny nurses’ concerns about pests and the state of disrepair in the hospital, but we feel vindicated that an outside entity verified what we know to be true: Tenet is failing our community,” said Caroline Ng’ang’a, a registered nurse in the intensive care unit. “We hope our concerns will be taken seriously from now on and we encourage the public to become actively involved in the process of deciding our community hospital’s future.”

DRMC is leased to Tenet Healthcare until 2027. In September 2023, Tenet proposed a deal to renew its lease and buy the hospital. Nurses are demanding that any decision on the possible sale of the public hospital be put to voters, who are the true owners of DRMC.

“We have seen that our advocacy is moving the discussion, as the district now seems to be leaning away from a sale to Tenet,” said Deb Edwards, a registered nurse at Desert Regional. “We would like to push this conversation even further, to call on the district to look for a partner who will be accountable, transparent, and responsive to the nurses and the needs of the community.” 

Rachel Berger is a communications specialist at National Nurses United.