Hospitals Criticize Nurses’ Strike Over Safety, Ebola Preparedness
California hospitals are criticizing a nurses' strike that began on Tuesday over a lack of adequate equipment and training standards for treating patients with Ebola, saying that the protest was political and that nurses' concerns are unfounded, Modern Healthcare reports (Rubenfire, Modern Healthcare, 11/12).
Details of Strike
On Tuesday, 18,000 Kaiser Permanente nurses launched a two-day strike in part to protest a lack of adequate equipment and training standards for treating patients with Ebola.
The strike affected 21 hospitals and dozens of clinics in California, according to National Nurses United spokesperson Charles Idelson. Nurses at Sutter Tracy Community Hospital and Watsonville Community Hospital also went on strike, according to the union.
In addition to Ebola preparedness, the strike aimed to address more than 35 operational proposals, including:
- Filling about 2,000 vacant nursing positions;
- Increasing training and education; and
- Providing protections for use of sick leave and more flexibility over breaks.
Kaiser said its hospitals were to remain open during the two-day strike, but some elective procedures and routine appointments might have needed to be rescheduled. In addition, Kaiser hired more than 2,800 temporary nurses to work during the strike, which could have cost up to $20 million daily (California Healthline, 11/10).
Reasons for Protest
The nurses have maintained that the strike was related to patient safety and Ebola preparedness, not pay or benefits in the union's ongoing contract negotiations with Kaiser.
Rose Ann DeMoro, executive director of the California Nurses Association and NNU, in a release said, "Nurses, who have been willing to stand by the patients whether it's the flu, whether it's Ebola, whether it's cancer, are now being asked to put themselves in harm's way unprotected, unguarded" (Sangree, Sacramento Bee, 11/12).
Bonnie Castillo, a leader at NNU and director of the group's disaster-response network, said nurses are concerned about Ebola, as well as an "erosion of care" at hospitals. Castillo said, "Instead of putting (profit) back into the community in terms of direct patient care, [hospitals are] cutting back on services. We know that they're going too far when they literally won't prepare for a deadly disease."
She added, "Ebola has shined a light on how fundamentally unprepared [hospitals] were in regards to investing in the resources" (Modern Healthcare, 11/12).
Health Systems' Response
Kaiser officials said they are "perplexed about why the nurses' union is striking," adding, "For weeks, union leadership has claimed to the public that this strike is about Ebola ... (but) the union has changed its message and now says to the public that the strike is about 'staffing.'" Kaiser said none of the union's reasons for the strike are "supported by the facts" (Payers & Providers, 11/13).
In a statement, Kaiser officials noted, "We have repeatedly asked union leadership to work with us on our Ebola strategy, which they have refused to do" (Modern Healthcare, 11/12).
Sutter Tracy officials said they were "surprised" by the strike at that facility, noting that "during our last negotiation session on Oct. 30, CNA representatives agreed that our equipment availability and training goals were consistent with their views and at no time expressed opposition to our plans" (Robertson , Sacramento Business Journal, 11/12).
In a joint statement, California Hospital Association President and CEO Duane Dauner and Association of California Nurse Leaders CEO Patricia McFarland said the strike was politically motivated. Dauner and McFarland said the union's "use of scare tactics and unjustified work disruptions are irresponsible and ignore the genuine preparation efforts that have been conducted and are continuing" (Robertson , Sacramento Business Journal, 11/12).
Jan Emerson-Shea, vice president and spokesperson for CHA, added, "CNA tends to use these strikes as a negotiating tactic." She said all hospitals in the state are prepared to screen and isolate patients who potentially have Ebola, as well as transfer such individuals to a hospital designated to treat the disease (Sacramento Bee, 11/12).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.