Nurses and supporters held rallies at three Santa Clara County health facilities on Monday as part of a day of action calling on county leaders to support improved working conditions for nurses and better-quality care for patients, the Registered Nurses Professional Association said.

The series of rallies began at 9 a.m. outside the front entrance of St. Louise Regional Hospital in Gilroy, then continued at noon at O’Connor Hospital on Forest Avenue in San Jose. Later in the day, protesting nurses and their supporters gathered for a 3 p.m. rally at Valley Medical Center Main Hospital in San Jose.

More than 3,750 nurses in the Santa Clara County Health and Hospital System — represented by the Registered Nurses Professional Association — are currently in contract negotiations with the county. Their last contract expired on Sunday.

“These issues ... make it difficult for Santa Clara County to recruit and retain nurses. Nurses, in turn, have trouble affording to live in the communities they serve.”

Registered Nurses Professional Association statement

Contract negotiations provide an opportunity for nurses to push for improvements that benefit health care professionals and patients alike, the association said.

County nurses have identified “scary” conditions that harm patient care such as short staffing and below-standard nurse to patient ratios. The patients who rely on the county’s public health system should have the same quality care as those who can afford private health care, but that is currently not the case, according to county nurses.

Nurses are also pointing to a dramatic increase in alleged workplace violence, along with troubling rates of nurses dealing with mental health concerns, particularly since the COVID-19 pandemic.

“These issues, along with pay and benefit packages that are out of step with the local market, make it difficult for Santa Clara County to recruit and retain nurses,” the group said. “Nurses, in turn, have trouble affording to live in the communities they serve.”