San Diego

Nurses union says new Kaiser facility in San Marcos distracts from ‘chronic' staffing issues at other hospitals

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After three years of construction, Kaiser Permanente San Marcos is open for patients, but not everyone welcomes this facility with open arms.

The building features a 24-hour emergency department, eight operating rooms and the capacity for 206 single interactive patient rooms, and its specialty services include a robotic surgery program, according to Kaiser. But, with a new building comes renewed frustration.

the United Nurses Associations of California/Union of Health Care Professionals, which represents about 35,000 registered nurses and health care workers, claims Kaiser's new facility comes as its two other local hospitals — San Diego Medical Center and Zion Medical Center — have been "chronically understaffed for years."

UNAC/UHCP officials say a lack of adequate staffing and resources has led to burnout at Kaiser's other two facilities.

"Kaiser Permanente has known for a long time about staffing problems at their two existing medical centers in San Diego and with the opening of their new one in San Marcos. The warnings from our registered nurses have fallen on deaf ears," UNAC/UHCP President Charmaine Morales said in a statement.

Eighteen years into her career as a nurse with Kaiser, Nicolasa Avey said she sees her colleagues running out of steam.

“I feel like we're in the trenches really working hard and we don't have that support that we have from leadership who are standing on the hillside watching this all happen,” Avey said.

She said staffing has been an issue for the better part of the last 10 years and a brand-new hospital requiring new resources will make matters worse.

Representatives for the new facility say it expands access for the 636,000 members in San Diego County.

Kaiser Permanente responded to concerns in a statement that reads:

"All Kaiser Permanente medical centers in San Diego – including Zion, San Diego, and San Marcos are fully staffed and meet or exceed California state-mandated nurse staffing ratios. Our new San Marcos Medical Center created more than 1,000 permanent positions which were fulfilled via an extensive 6-month recruitment process."

Avey claims there are staffing gaps, and without adequate resources, it's the patient who pays.

“I think Kaiser loves to paint a pretty picture to the public, but behind the scenes, it's not a pretty picture,” she said. “You have a beautiful new facility, beautiful, brand new. Everybody's happy. But the underneath that you've brushed under the table, brushed under the rug for so many years is the staffing and that wouldn't look good.”

The San Marcos location is Kaiser Permanente's 16th hospital across southern California.

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