8/30/07

Hospital to hire scabs, lock doors against strikers

Fremont and Rideout hospitals will close some of their doors for "crowd control" during Friday's expected one-day strike by registered nurses, documents said. A packet distributed to nurses by Fremont-Rideout administration, and provided to the Appeal-Democrat, outlines procedures and answers questions for nurses about the strike day.

Information in the packet states that at Fremont Medical Center in Yuba City "all doors will be locked except for the main entry and material management wing stairwell." And, at Rideout Memorial Hospital, "all doors will be locked except for the north wing entry, main entrance main tower and the ER entry."

"Not all doors will be locked; there is no lockout," Tresha Moreland, Fremont-Rideout vice president for human resources said. "Some doors will only be locked in preparation for crowd control."

Moreland said officials are anticipating a large crowd outside the hospital, and sealing some doors would allow staff to monitor activity inside the building.

"It's all about patient care," Moreland said. "We know there will be a large crowd, and we want there to be control."

Additionally, the guide says that nurses showing up to work Friday will be required to check in at a “command center” in order to receive instructions and a badge showing security they will be working that day.

Those not showing up for work Friday will not be allowed to show up for work through Monday due to contracts with replacement nurses.

Heather Avalos, a Rideout Memorial Hospital ICU registered nurse, said she was surprised to see the precautions being taken by the hospital.

"We’re not going to get violent, but I don't know what they expect," she said. "We are professional adults. Getting violent would defeat the purpose. They're trying to say we’re not locked out but we're not allowed to return to work until Tuesday."

Avalos said nurses will strike from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday at Fremont and Rideout hospitals in Yuba City and Marysville, respectively, at the Fremont-Rideout Cancer Center in Marysville and at the Feather River Surgery Center in Yuba City.

Pamphlets will be handed out and picketing will take place at these locations with signs made at the Sacramento office of the union, the California Nurses Association.

Nurses decided to strike for one day Friday after months of failed contract negotiations. Meetings with hospital administration were called off Thursday after a federal mediator said neither side would budge from their stands.

Nurses are requesting changes in "floating practices" in which nurses would only be assigned to areas similar to their expertise, staffing ratios, safe patient handling, a 7 percent pay increase and equal benefits and retirement.

Hospital officials have counter-offered a 5.5 percent pay increase for the first year and a 5 percent increase for the second year of a two-year contract. The hospital administration also said it would address patient care issues and nurses' concerns over staffing.

Nearly 75 percent of the hospital's 450 eligible nurses voted in late July on the issues. Of that 75 percent, more than 90 percent agreed with the efforts made by registered nurses and the union.

Meanwhile, Fremont-Rideout placed an online ad with Nursing Corporation for replacement nurses. The ad says replacements will be paid $40 an hour and guaranteed at least 48 hours of work with a five-day commitment.

"As nurses, we know you can work as a replacement for one day; we get faxes all the time," Avalos said. "It's a punitive action to chose to secure contracts (for five days) when it's not necessary."

Fremont-Rideout nurses will be able to report back to work on Tuesday for shift schedules.

However, in a letter released to the bargaining unit for registered nurses hospital CEO Terri Hamilton says "those who struck will be recalled according to unit of need and by seniority."

Moreland said she had not read the letter and therefore could not comment, but added it would be difficult to predict the number of affected employees until the strike happens.

"There's no way to predict the future," she said. "We won't have those numbers until Friday."

Extra security and shuttle buses will also be available for patients and working employees during the strike, the fact packet says.

Police do not have plans to increase patrol around the hospitals, but the Marysville and Yuba City departments are aware of the scheduled strikes.

(appeal-democrat.com)

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