Nurse Strike Increases Personnel Costs at Doctors Medical Center
Doctors Medical Center San Pablo/Pinole is spending about $2.6 million per month on staffing costs related to an ongoing nurses strike at the facility, the Contra Costa Times reports. The hospital reported a loss of $12.7 million for the first six months of 2003, compared with a profit of $7.6 million during the same period a year earlier, according to data released by state officials that are based on reports from Santa Barbara-based Tenet Healthcare, which owns the facility (Silber, Contra Costa Times, 11/4). The California Nurses Association, which represents the nurses, and Tenet began contract negotiations in August 2002, when the nurses' contract expired, but the discussions ended without an agreement last October, prompting the nurses to go on strike. The nurses have asked for subsidized health benefits for retired nurses and a pension plan to which the hospital would contribute 5% of nurses' incomes. Doctors' offer, proposed last October and again in May, includes an immediate pay raise of 10% and two 7% pay increases over the next two years but does not include retiree medical benefits (California Healthline, 5/8). The nurses' benefits requests are similar to those negotiated at other hospitals in Northern California, but Tenet maintains that it cannot afford the cost increases because they might translate into similar expenses in its other hospitals.
Costs related to temporary staffing have decreased in recent months because Doctors hired 125 new, permanent nurses and 143 of the 450 striking nurses returned to work. The hospital anticipates that it will have hired enough permanent nurses by May 2004 to eliminate its temporary staffing costs, Julie Kline, chief nursing officer at Doctors, said. Meanwhile, most of the striking nurses have found jobs at other hospitals. However, they "still have hopes the strike will be settled" as CNA organizes nurses at more of Tenet's hospitals, the Times reports. The union represents nurses at three other Tenet facilities and is attempting to unionize nurses at 19 others (Contra Costa Times, 11/4).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.