10/9/07

California nurses prep for big hospital strike this week

Nurses at Alta Bates Summit Medical Center and other Sutter Health hospitals say that inadequate staffing means they can't take a meal break without abandoning their patients. Staffing issues and proposed changes to their health and retirements benefits also are the complaints leading some 5,000 nurses at 15 Northern California hospitals to prepare to strike tomorrow and Thursday.

"It's not good for patients to have a nurse that feels faint because she hasn't eaten," said Jan Rodolfo, a registered nurse in the Alta Bates Summit Medical Center of Oakland, speaking to reporters as members of the California Nurses Association made picket signs Monday.

The two-day work stoppage would occur at 13 Sutter Health hospitals, including the Berkeley and Oakland Alta Bates facilities as well as San Leandro Hospital, Mills-Peninsula Health Services in Burlingame and San Mateo, Sutter Delta in Antioch, Sutter Solano in Vallejo, Sutter Medical Center of Santa Rosa, St. Luke's Hospital and California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco, Eden Medical Center in Castro Valley, Sutter Marin General Hospital in Greenbrae and Sutter Novato.

The nurses say that Sutter Health hospitals are violating legally mandated nurse-to-patient ratios by not providing for coverage when nurses take breaks. Most nurses just don't take breaks, according to Sharon Tobin, an intensive care unit nurse at Mills-Peninsula.

Tobin said another major issue is having enough staff to lift patients. "Injuries have skyrocketed" in the last six months, she said, as nurses injure their backs, necks or shoulders trying to lift or turn patients when teams of two or sometimes three people should be doing thatlifting.

Ten contracts between locals of the California Nurses Association and Sutter Health expired over the summer. Most of those contracts were extended until Sept. 26 as negotiations continued into their fourth month.

Many of the hospitals gave their "final offers" last week, according to a spokeswoman for Mills-Peninsula Health Services.

The spokeswoman, Debbie Goodin, also told MediaNews that the hospital has contacted a company that provides replacement nurses.

The health and retirement benefits at issue differ in each of the 10 contracts, according to both hospital and union officials. In some contracts, nurses are being asked to go through a health assessment and meet six times a year with a wellness coach in order to continue to get current health coverage. If they do not go, they would pay part of the premium for the coverage.

At other hospitals, nurses are being told they must go to certain Sutter facilities and to certain doctors for health coverage.

"It's disheartening. We were hoping this strike would be avoided — we are still hoping — but it is looking rather doubtful," said Rose Ann De Moro, an official of the California Nurses Association.

The nurses also are protesting plans by Sutter to close some hospital units, including the surgical unit at St. Luke's in the Mission district of San Francisco. Registered nurse Jane Sandoval from St. Luke's said that Sutter has already changed the nurse staffing in the surgical recovery and newborn nursery units so that nurses are only "on call" for the recovery unit and for the nursery with no one assigned to staff these units.

(insidebayarea.com)

2 comments:

chim said...

My girlfriend is a RN and it is a *huge* deal for nurses to strike and abandon patients to better the hospitals working conditions.

Unfortunately, I don't know how easy the demand for new nurses is going to be unless hospitals start hiring more LPN. As it is, the US has a massive shortage of RNs due to budget cuts made decades ago when hospitals tried the policy of cutting nurses following a boom in medical technology (which they figured would replace the need for nurses). This has been shown not to work, and the result is a huge shortage throughout the US.

Many of the nurses at the county hospital in Seattle that I am familiar with are extremely lucky to get their full 30 minute lunch break in, and the idea of taking their two 15 minute breaks during the day is just laughable.

chim said...

My girlfriend is a RN and it is a *huge* deal for nurses to strike and abandon patients to better the hospitals working conditions.

Unfortunately, I don't know how easy the demand for new nurses is going to be unless hospitals start hiring more LPN. As it is, the US has a massive shortage of RNs due to budget cuts made decades ago when hospitals tried the policy of cutting nurses following a boom in medical technology (which they figured would replace the need for nurses). This has been shown not to work, and the result is a huge shortage throughout the US.

Many of the nurses at the county hospital in Seattle that I am familiar with are extremely lucky to get their full 30 minute lunch break in, and the idea of taking their two 15 minute breaks during the day is just laughable.

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