Concerned over the erosion of quality of care and cuts to patient protections, some 6,000 nurses have been on a one-day strike today at California’s second largest private hospital and at one of its most profitable corporate hospital chains.
The members of National Nurses United include 2,000 RNs at Long Beach Memorial Medical Center and Miller Children’s Hospital in Long Beach, and 4,000 RNs who work at nine Bay Area facilities that are part of the Sutter Health corporation.
Michele Ross and Elsa Matos-Leal, both RNs, summed up why they took today’s action:
Despite hundreds of hours of talks, this corporation persists with the
same hard line — pushing more than 150 proposals aimed at the heart of our patient advocacy and eroding safety standards that protect our patients.
Sutter, not a mom-and-pop grocery store, hardly needs the sweeping concessions. It has amassed more than $3.7 billion in profits the past six years. It pays salaries of more than $1 million a year to 20 top executives, most of whom received pay increases of more than 100 percent from 2005 to 2009 according to Sutter’s own public IRS filings.
Long Beach RNs say they have gotten no assurances from hospital management for safe RN-to-patient staffing at all times and oppose the hospital’s refusal to implement safe patient lift policies to prevent accidents to patients and injuries to nurses, despite enactment of a state law requiring such policy.
The Long Beach nurses also are protesting hospital demands for increases in healthcare premiums. The hospital proposal would cost RNs nearly $3,000 more out of pocket in premium costs, even though the hospital’s costs for nurses’ health coverage has not risen.
At Long Beach, RN leader Margie Keenan says “We are finding it harder to give the quality care we want to give when our employer, like insurance companies, is only focused on the bottom line.
This undermines our ability to deliver safe patient care. Our serious safety concerns have not been answered at the bargaining table and we will not be able to reach an agreement until they are addressed. Patients are more important than the bottom line.
Sutter also seeks to limit the RNs’ ability to effectively advocate for patients against
budget-focused priorities of management. The corporate chain effectively forces nurses to work when sick, dangerously exposing extremely ill patients to infection.
Like Long Beach, Sutter seeks to reduce nurses’ healthcare coverage, with huge increases in nurses’ out-of-pocket costs, elimination of health benefits for part-time RNs, and other cuts that would result in thousands of dollars in economic loss for RNs.
Teresa Mullen, a charge nurse at the Oakland campus of Alta Bates Summit, says
Sutter’s proposal to eliminate charge nurses threatens high-quality patient care and our ability to maintain patient safety and patient advocacy.
Says Hebron Viray, oncology RN at Alta Bates’ Berkeley campus:
Sutter’s proposal to eliminate sick leave will force nurses to come to work sick which will further jeopardize our fragile patients.
RNs will also continue protesting Sutter’s slash and burn reductions of patient services throughout Northern California. Sutter has targeted hospitals serving more low income patients in San Francisco and San Leandro for full or partial closures, and carried out huge reductions in patient services it deems less profitable, regardless of the impact on patients, especially mental health services, women’s health care, pediatric care, rehab services and dialysis care.