Nurse shortage in California hits LTC facilities

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A competition between long-term care facilities and hospitals is heating up in California as hospitals try to lure nurses away from long-term care to meet state-mandated nurse staffing regulations.

Hospitals are enticing nurses from nursing homes and assisted living facilities with starting salaries of $75,000 and signing bonuses of up to $10,000, according to experts. They say this will spark a growing crisis in long-term care across the state.

"It's a major problem," said Anne Burns Johnson, president and CEO of the California Association of Homes and Services for the Aging, Sacramento. "There have been staffing challenges in long-term care but it's more pronounced as nurse salaries have increased and nurse staffing ratios have gone into effect."

The hospital nursing shortage began in January of 2004 when the state imposed a minimum of one nurse for every six patients at hospital medical and surgical units. This year hospitals are required to increase that ratio to one nurse for every five patients. Nurse vacancies number about 14,000 in the state, according to the California Hospital Association.

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