Unionized Nurses File Grievance Against Sutter Delta Concerning Registered Nurse Staffing Levels
Nurses represented by the California Nurses Association have filed a grievance against Sutter Delta Medical Center in Antioch alleging that the hospital is "shirking the spirit" of state nurse-to-patient ratio requirements by hiring cheaper, less-skilled licensed vocational nurses who must be supervised by registered nurses, the San Francisco Chronicle reports (Johnson, San Francisco Chronicle, 3/19). Under the rules, which took effect Jan. 1, nurses do not have to care for more than eight patients at a time. The rules also call for one nurse per five patients in medical-surgical units by 2005, as well as one nurse per four patients in specialty care and telemetry units and one nurse per three patients in step-down units by 2008. In addition, the regulations state that only registered nurses can care for critical trauma patients and that at least one registered nurse must serve as a triage nurse in emergency departments (California Healthline, 2/25). According to the Chronicle, nurses at Sutter Delta say that patients are not receiving adequate, timely care because the hospital "refuses to hire enough registered nurses," adding that registered nurses are being overworked because they must care for more patients than the law allows while supervising LVNs. However, Susan Bumatay, the hospital's chief nursing executive, denied allegations that Sutter is "skirting" the law, and said there is "no evidence" that patient care has deteriorated, according to the Chronicle. She added that according to patient death records, nursing levels met or exceeded state guidelines in every case. Carolyn Kemp, spokesperson for Sutter-owned Alta Bates Summit Medical Center, said Sutter hospitals maintain a staffing mix that is 90% RNs and 10% LVNs. State regulations allow for LVNs to comprise up to 50% of hospital nursing staff. The California Healthcare Association, which represents 450 hospitals, said the charges are "unfounded" and that CNA "wants to force Sutter into hiring more nurses," the Chronicle reports. Nurses from Sutter Delta and seven other Sutter Health hospitals have scheduled a protest Friday outside Alta Bates Summit in Oakland (San Francisco Chronicle, 3/19).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.