The LA Daily News had an article late last week discussing the shortage of nurses in LA county hospitals, which painted a pretty dire picture — particularly in light of recent disasters in other parts of the country.
“Hurricane Katrina should have been a wake-up call to L.A. County about the critical shortage of nurses in our health facilities,” said Grace Corse, a registered nurse at Los Angeles County/USC Medical Center. “Do you think we are ready for a disaster the magnitude of Katrina? The answer is no. L.A. County is bleeding R.N.s.”
Over the past few years, the number of nurses employed by the Department of Health Services has steadily dropped to the current 5,700. Last year, the county hired 500 nurses, but 520 left county employment.
The question seems to hinge on how much county RNs are paid versus their private-sector counterparts — on average some $15,000 less a year. Nursing organizations are in talks with county officials. Meanwhile the number of nurses falls while the ratio of patients to nurses continues to rise, despite being mandated at lower levels by law.