Judge Orders Nurses at USC Medical Center To Halt ‘Sickouts’
Superior Court Judge Dzintra Janavs on Monday issued a temporary restraining order to halt a series of "sickouts" among nurses at Los Angeles County+USC Medical Center who are members of the Service Employees International Union Local 660, the Los Angeles Times reports. The restraining order, sought by officials from the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services, requires the union to notify its 5,000 member nurses to stop the sickouts. County attorneys alleged that the sickouts "threaten[ed] the health and safety of hospital patients," the Times reports. According to county DHS authorities, the sickouts at USC began Friday morning, when 18 of 23 nurses in the emergency department called in sick, and continued through Sunday. On Sunday, all three nurses scheduled to work in the facility's burn unit called in sick.
Annelle Grajeda, general manager of Local 660, said that the union does not oppose the restraining order and will comply. Grajeda said that union nurses have been working without a contract since Sept. 30. According to the Times, negotiations were stalled by wage demands and other issues, including nurse staffing levels in the county, which the union says are too low. Grajeda said, "[I]t's a pretty heavy step when nurses do something like this, and frankly I think it's really a message to the county and the union that we need to be at the table and we need to have a contract." County Supervisor Gloria Molina said that no patients with life threatening injuries presented at the burn unit during the sickout, but she added that "it was terrifying to think that potentially somebody could have died because we did not have as fully equipped a burn unit as usual, especially on the Fourth of July" (Landsberg, Los Angeles Times, 7/6).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.