400 nurses protest conditions, safety at Arrowhead Regional Medical Center in Colton
The Sun, 5/2/14
Arrowhead Regional Medical Center RN Joann Bakus, left, and RN Jen Miller and Miller’s English Bulldog Zoey, during informational picketing Thursday. (Jim Steinberg/Photo)
By Jim Steinberg, The Sun
Posted: 05/01/14, 6:50 PM PDT
COLTON >> More than 400 registered nurses picketed Thursday in front of Arrowhead Regional Medical Center.
“The primary issues are patient care and nursing safety,” said Jed Smith, a labor representative with the California Nurses Association/National Nurses United.
But San Bernardino County spokesman David Wert said the only proposals the county has received from the nurses involved pay raises by as much as 36 percent over three years for some categories of nurses.
The nurses had at least two bullhorns and chanted “mighty, mighty county nurses” while trying to hold onto signs saying “we walk the line for patient safety” in the powerful winds.
The informational picketing was done ahead of a June 1 contract expiration date, Smith said, because negotiations with the hospital’s administration was not progressing. If the contract is allowed to expire in June, nurses will have the ability to strike, although a strike vote has not been called, he said. In interviews, several ARMC nurses spoke about not being able to take breaks or eat lunch as units they worked for dispatched fellow nurses to address patients with life threatening emergencies,
Wert said nurse-patient ratios are regulated by the state and ARMC has never been cited for violating those requirements. Low pay, along with working conditions are the reason for the high turnover, several picketing nurses said. Wert said that county statistics show the average tenure of an ARMC registered nurse is nine years. “That doesn’t sound like high turnover to me,” Wert said. ARMC nurses earn some $17 an-hour less than nurses in many area hospitals, said Toni Rodriguez, an emergency department nurse. Wert added that pay, when benefits are factored, is better than many area hospitals.
The contract for the hospital’s 900 plus RNs expires on June 1.
Negotiations started late last year for a new contract and to develop remedies for the turnover, Rodriguez and other nurses said. “No progress has been made,” said Smith, the labor representative. “We have submitted several proposals and the county has not responded and has not come up with their own proposals,” Smith said. “The county does not seem to be taking these issues seriously, which is why we took it to the street,” he said.
Wert said the county did not receive a proposal from the nurses’ union until two weeks ago and that primarily involved pay. Jen Miller, a seven-year-emergency department veteran, said in October she was punched, knocked to the ground and strangled by a 300-pound-man who was brought to the emergency room on a psychiatric hold. When the man fell on top of her, Miller said she received a spinal injury and has not regained the full use of her right leg. Wert said that there was no proposal from the nurses’ union regarding how the county might improve nurses security in the handling of patients on a psychiatric hold. “This is the beginning of a three-year contract. It’s a golden opportunity,” he said.Back to News »