Nurses at Long Beach Memorial Medical Center To Hold Second Strike
More than 1,000 registered nurses at Long Beach Memorial Medical Center are scheduled on Thursday to hold their second one-day strike in the last three weeks, the Los Angeles Times reports (Tamaki, Los Angeles Times, 11/12). The nurses held the first strike on Oct. 23, prompting hospital officials to impose a four-day lockout. The nurses, represented by the California Nurses Association, have sought an improved pension plan, increased staffing levels and raises for more experienced nurses, according to Diane Hirsch-Garcia, contract negotiator for CNA. The union has asked Long Beach Memorial to enroll the 1,300 registered nurses in a pension plan that would require it to pay fixed amounts, rather than the varying amounts now paid out based on employee efficiency. Hospital officials agreed to study a defined benefit pension plan but have refused to meet the other requests (California Healthline, 10/24). Organizers say the second strike will be larger than the first because members of up to five other non-health care unions are expected to join the nurses on the picket line. In addition, the unions have said they would boycott the facility "until the nursing dispute is resolved," the Times reports. CNA spokesperson Charles Idelson said, "I think it sends a powerful message to the hospital that they cannot continue to stonewall the registered nurses' very serious concerns about the future of patient care at Long Beach Memorial." Dr. Gainer Pillsbury, medical director at Long Beach Memorial, said of other unions' decision to join the strike, "We don't like this whole thing. We're used to helping people, not arguing with them." This week's strike could result in another lockout because the hospital is again looking to hire about 450 replacement nurses, the Times reports (Los Angeles Times, 11/12).
According to a special advertising section in the Wall Street Journal today, the strikes at Long Beach Memorial "reflect a larger, national problem" of a shortage of health care workers. According to the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations, there are currently 126,000 vacant nursing positions across the country. In addition, nursing turnover is 21% annually and rising. David Mead-Fox, senior client partner for health care in recruitment company Korn Ferry's Boston office, said, "Health care is like no other industry. It's highly regulated, requires a tremendous amount of training and deals with life and death every day. There will always be a shortage of workers willing to enter the field" (Bennett, Wall Street Journal, 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.