Nurses rallied on Tuesday outside the Palomar Medical Center in Escondido, protesting a six-figure increase for Palomar Health's CEO.
Palomar Health's CEO Diane Hansen’s newly negotiated $110,000 raise follows recent layoffs at Palomar Health. With the bump in salary, Hansen's annual compensation is more than $900,000, before bonuses.
Palomar Health spokesman Derryl Acosta provided a statement regarding Hansen’s raise, singling out her leadership, improved hospital safety rating, the implementation of a $70 million capital improvement program and the building of a new crisis-stabilization unit, among other things.
But the California Nurses Association, representing nurses at Palomar Health, feels the raise sends the wrong message after months of repeated complaints about their treatment.
“If there’s money for her and there’s money for the construction, then there should be money for the protection of the caregivers,” said George Santiago, a Palomar Health nurse at the rally.
During the pandemic, nurses' unions nationwide have complained about shortages of PPE.
“An N-95 [mask] is supposed to be single-use, and when the pandemic started, we were asked to start reusing those N-95’s daily,” said Sue Phillips, with the California Nurses Association.
Staff members have reported a lack of health and safety measures and said that the layoffs have created staffing problems in departments and during some shifts.
“It seems that she was given a reward for doing that, and that basically offends us,” said Santiago.
In April, Palomar Health said a temporary hold on elective surgeries and a 45-50% decrease in patients were a major loss of revenue.
“The board did not prioritize the patients, the nurses or the caregivers when voting for this raise, this contract,” said Ginger Faustino, with the California Nurses Association.
Many nurses told NBC7 that they feel the board and management have lost sight of the patient community and the people at their bedside.
“The staff has risen to this occasion despite the fact that they are not getting what they need,” Phillips said.
Palomar Health's statement also cited Hansen’s negotiation of a labor agreement and her role in the improvement of its finances. Even with the $110,000 raise, Hansen's salary is still below market rate, said a representative for Palomar Health.