State money paid to hospitals to hire more nurses will receive greater scrutiny from outsiders if the Legislature adopts plans proposed Monday by a panel that criticized the program's lack of accountability.
A Senate budget subcommittee probing whether hospitals received money to meet new nurse-to-patient ratios while not complying with them voted to make state officials report on whether the budgeted money went for its intended purpose.
"We ought to find out if hospitals are complying with that law," said subcommittee chair Sen. Denise Ducheny, D-San Diego.
The hearing played out as the California Nurses Association continues to battle Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger over the number of nurses required in California's 400 hospitals. The union, which plans major protests Tuesday in San Francisco and a billboard campaign attacking the governor, has claimed the Schwarzenegger administration paid hospitals $27 million to help hire more nurses even as it tried to overturn a new law requiring their hiring. The CNA also alleged that some hospitals may have taken state money to hire more nurses even as they didn't do the hiring.
A definitive answer remained elusive Monday, frustrating Ducheny and the author of the 1999 law requiring hospitals to hire one nurse for each five patients by last Jan. 1.
"It seems money specifically allocated to advancement of nurse-patient staff ratios was not spent to do that, or it can't be shown that it was spent to do that," said Sen. Sheila Kuehl, D-Santa Monica.
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