Health Care Workers Strike at 18 Hospitals
Health care workers at 18 hospitals across the state went on strike yesterday to push for higher pay and increased staffing, the Los Angeles Times reports. An estimated 6,000 nurses, respiratory therapists, nursing assistants and housekeepers staged a one-day strike at 16 San Francisco-area hospitals owned by Catholic Healthcare West, Sutter Health, Tenet Healthcare Corp. and Prison Health Services (Kelly, Los Angeles Times, 12/15). Workers hailed the strike -- the fifth one-day strike against Sutter and CHW this year -- as a "success," and returned to work today. Officials from the various hospitals reported that the strike only disrupted operations once, when an ambulance transporting a nonemergency patient drove on an alternative route to bypass picketers. Wade Rose, CHW vice president for policy and planning, called the day "uneventful," adding that this year's previous strikes have given CHW "the experience to provide adequate personnel for clinical and emergency care" during walkouts. However, events did not go as smoothly at Sutter Health's Alta Bates Medical Center, where hospital spokesperson Carolyn Kemp described the events as "noisy." She added that the striking workers "showed no respect for ... what goes on in a hospital" (Raine, San Francisco Chronicle, 12/15).
Strikes staged at two CHW-owned Ventura County hospitals, however, did not end today, and are set to continue for the next two weeks, the Los Angeles Times reports. At St. John's Regional Medical Center in Oxnard, replacement workers were brought in to fill in for striking nurses, and hospital administrators reported that the facility emergency and intensive care units were "fully staffed," even though the outpatient surgery center was closed. However, continuation of the strike could cost both the Oxnard hospital and St. John's Pleasant Valley in Camarillo as much as $1 million in extra labor costs, St. John's Regional Medical Center Administrator Charles Padilla said. Striking nurses contend that the hospital "has never talked seriously" about increasing staffing levels. Stephanie Lara-Jenkins, an emergency room nurse in Oxnard, said, "I know they have the money. I can't imagine how stupid they would be not to settle this." In response, Padilla said that St. John's "is not immune" to the national nursing shortage. "I think the staffing is very appropriate. It looks to me that they are hellbent on striking. At first they said it was all about money and now it's about staffing. It's a moving target," he stated. Padilla added that the hospital's administrators are "ready" to resume negotiations Monday with SEIU Local 399, which represents the nurses (Los Angeles Times, 12/15).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.