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San Diego Nurses Rally In Washington For Lower Patient-To-Staff Ratio Nationwide

National Nurses United nurses rally at the capitol, May 10, 2017.

Credit: Alexandria Whittler

Above: National Nurses United nurses rally at the capitol, May 10, 2017.

San Diego nurses were among a sea of nurses dressed in red who lobbied senators Wednesday to lower patient-to-staff ratios and to push back against the Republican health care plan.

As part of International Nurses Week, dozens of nurses from 19 states urged senators to reject the American Health Care Act.

RELATED: Fact-Checking Republicans’ Defense Of The GOP Health Bill

“We need health care for everyone through a Medicare for all system,” said Ken Zinn, the National Nurses United political director.

National Nurses United President Deborah Burger said, "It’s immoral for us to be a country as rich as we are with the resources that we have and have people that become homeless and destitute because they can’t afford health care.”

The San Diego nurses said the Senate could look to California as an example of how to improve nurses’ working conditions. They said the state has set patient-to-staff ratios that allow nurses to provide adequate care, with some ratios as low as two to one for intensive care.

Rebecca Wells remembers what it was like to have too many patients and not enough help.

“When I was in nursing school you could have up to 14 patients,” Wells said. “You can’t even keep your patients straight. And I hear horror stories of the nurses who would cry — just drive home in tears like, ‘Did I do harm?’”

Sue Phillips has worked at Palomar Hospital in Escondido for 21 years as a registered nurse in the intensive care unit. She said she has seen the benefits of having smaller patient-to-staff ratios.

“Patients do better, the mortality rate goes down, and they have shorter lengths of stays in the hospital,” Phillips said.

She and the other nurses went to the office of Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, targeting him because on Tuesday he said repealing Obamacare could be hard because once the public “is on the dole, they’ll take every dime they can.”

“We think this is a human right. Not just if you can afford (health care),” Wells said before delivering a letter listing concerns to Hatch’s office.

“When you hear nurses saying patients are dying from cancer because they can’t afford their chemo drugs, that they’re having to sell their home in order to provide for their children … It isn’t a dole. It is a human right.”

The nurses will gather again in Sacramento on May 19 for Lobby Day.

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