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Nurses deliver pillows and a petition to USC Verdugo Hills Hospital officials

Nurses deliver pillows and a petition to USC Verdugo Hills Hospital officials
Nurses from USC Verdugo Hills Hospital delivered new pillows to key figures in upper management on Monday, Sept. 8, 2014 as a message that the medical staff needs more funding to improve patient care. The pillows were bought with proceeds from a bake sale. (Courtesy of Dinorah Williams)

Nurses from USC Verdugo Hills Hospital delivered new pillows to key figures in upper management on Monday as a message that the medical staff needs more funding to improve patient care.

Registered nurse Justin Mentzer said hospital beds have gotten old and, in response, nurses have to use several pillows per patient to prevent pressure sores.

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“We are trying to get patients repositioned every two hours,” he said.

Sometimes there aren’t enough pillows to go around as a result, Mentzer said.

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Better bedding is just one of the issues nurses want addressed in addition to the bigger concern of the lack of a 24-hour in-house pharmacy.

The hospital pharmacy closes at 8 p.m., leaving nurses to fill prescriptions who don’t have as much experience as a pharmacist, a scenario that could be dangerous, Mentzer said.

“I’ve never heard of a hospital that doesn’t have a 24-hour pharmacy,” he said.

Mentzer and other nurses held a bake sale outside the hospital when they were off-duty on Monday, and used the proceeds to purchase the new pillows, which were delivered to the offices of Debbie Walsh, the hospital’s chief executive, and Tom Jackiewicz, senior vice president and chief executive officer for USC Health.

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Petitions were also dropped off with the signatures of 27 nurses.

“We are not being provided the equipment we need for our patients,” Mentzer said.

USC bought the 158-bed hospital last year.

The university would not grant an interview on the issue, but school officials did support the nurses’ decision to rally, according to a statement.

“USC Verdugo Hills Hospital is dedicated to the highest level of patient safety and care,” according to the statement. “We view our staff as important partners in the continuity of that care.”

Last March, 72% of the hospital’s 150 nurses voted to unionize by joining the California Nurses Assn., but a contract with USC to guarantee improvements such as raises has yet to be reached.

“We continue to negotiate in good faith with the California Nursing Assn. and are confident that both sides are committed to bringing the highest level of health care services to the community we serve,” according to the statement. “We value each and every staff member and remain committed to reaching an agreement that benefits our staff.”

Having benefits such as raises and hiring additional nurses to fill in during breaks would strengthen retention and ensure adequate staffing, Mentzer said, adding that if USC doesn’t provide nurses with what they are asking for, a strike is possible in the future.

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