UC RNs hold state public health department accountable

Submitted by ADonahue on
Large group of nurses outside California Department of Public Health building holding CNA banner, signs that say "Protect Our Patients" and "Do You Job"

By Chuleenan Svetvilas

National Nurse magazine - April | May | June 2024 Issue

University of California (UC) registered nurses from across the state held a rally on March 19 in front of the California Department of Public Health offices in Sacramento, Calif., to highlight their ongoing patient safety concerns, including overcrowding in UC emergency departments, patient privacy violations, and CDPH’s failure to respond appropriately to these complaints with thorough and transparent investigations and reporting. California Nurses Association represents nearly 20,000 UC registered nurses.

UC nurses have been sounding the alarm over the ongoing patient safety concerns inside UC medical centers since 2020. RNs have filed dozens of complaints with CDPH, citing safety issues due to overcrowding in the emergency departments, including patients being placed on gurneys in hallways for multiple days. Also, two patients are being placed in rooms designed for only one patient. Nurses say these situations are untenable and not only eliminate patient privacy but create issues in patient care and nurse safety. 

Nurses say CDPH is responsible for investigating complaints and it has a responsibility to report back to those who called for the investigation, not just managers. Nurses demand that CDPH investigate all complaints, ensure information posted to the department’s website is accurate and updated, and hold UC accountable to the conditions set forth by CDPH.

"As nurses, we witness firsthand the consequences of delayed action by the California Department of Public Health in addressing patient safety concerns,” said Nikki Cuadra, RN in the acute-care pediatrics unit at UCLA Medical Center. “It’s time for CDPH to step up, prioritize timely processing of complaints, and enforce regulatory measures without delay. Our patients' well-being depends on it."    

Less than 10 days after the protest, pediatric nurses at UCLA Medical Center reported a major victory. Patient rooms that were designed for one pediatric patient would no longer have to squeeze in a second patient. UCLA agreed to limit the doubling of patients in single rooms if all pediatric beds at both UCLA campuses were full and there was a surge in admissions. 

Chuleenan Svetvilas is a communications specialist at National Nurses United.