The Service Employees International Union United Workers West has asked the California Health and Human Services Agency to not give hospitals money to pay inflated costs for travel nursing and staffing agencies.
Employment agencies are seeking to charge hospitals $300 an hour for temporary staff, $100 more than in January, the California Hospital Association wrote in a letter to state Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly on Wednesday. The association wants the state to share the cost, which California had been doing until March.
The Oakland-based union, which represents about 100,000 healthcare workers in the Golden State, objects.
"Instead of using state resources to pay for travel staff as [the California Hospital Association] is requesting, we would propose that the state act to retain California's current healthcare workforce and encourage healthcare workers back to our hospitals by providing retention bonuses to healthcare workers who are doing their best to hold the line," SEIU-UHW President Dave Regan wrote in a letter to Ghaly Thursday.
"The state should not prioritize paying travel staff over incentivizing current employees. The industry is hoarding tens of billions in reserves and many hospitals are still paying excessive executive compensation," Regan wrote.
The SEIU affiliate wants hospitals retain current workers and to lure back workers who've exited the healthcare field by offering bonuses and other financial incentives.
The hospital association also asked California to halt investigations into complaints and facility-reported incidents through the end year, contending that these surveys are time-consuming and pull clinical staff from patient care during a pandemic.
"We have fewer people working in hospitals than we had 18 months ago, as COVID-19 has taken a devastating physical and emotional toll on California's health care workforce," association President Carmela Coyle wrote to Ghaly. "Many health care workers have reached their breaking point and are leaving hospital employment, retiring early or leaving their profession altogether."
The labor union wants the state to continue monitoring hospitals, citing patient and worker safety concerns.