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Nurses Protest Patient Care Concerns in Barstow

San Bernardino Sun, 12/4/13

Registered nurses at Barstow Community Hospital staged a one-day strike from 7 a.m. Tuesday to 7 a.m. today to protest ongoing patient care concerns and rights of registered nurses, as part of a National Day of Action by Community Health Systems RNs.

Nurses were protesting the hospital’s ongoing refusal to address the nurses’ concerns over patient safety, inadequate staffing and substandard wages, according to Charles Idelson, communications director for National Nurses Unified.

The 56-bed hospital has been involved in litigation with the California Nurses Association union since June, when nurses filed federal charges against the hospital for unfair discipline against union supporters and other violations of federal labor law.

The protest was expected to affect more than 1,400 RNs at facilities in Barstow as well as those in Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia.

Community Health Systems consistently underestimates Barstow RNs, said Mike Ziemer, intensive care unit RN at Barstow Community Hospital.

“Their repeated unfair labor practices are symptomatic of the contemptuous attitude they have taken in bargaining since we made that democratic decision,” said Ziemer, who has spent 25 years as a registered nurse at the hospital, which is owned by Tennessee-based Community Health Systems, a national for-profit hospital chain.

“They’re still refusing to bargain with us, even though we’ve been in negotiations for 18 months.” Ziemer added. “We want to get CHS’ attention, but our nurses will report to work (Wednesday).”

John Rader, Barstow Community Hospital business development and marketing director, said the hospital continued to provide uninterrupted services and high-quality care for its patients during the strike and picketing.

“Through a professional staffing agency, the hospital secured qualified, temporary replacement nurses who are credentialed, licensed to work in California and experienced in the hospital areas where they were assigned,” Rader said.

At Barstow, the hospital in August was slapped with a rare federal injunction ordering it to cease and desist violations of the RNs’ collective bargaining rights — one of 10 issued in the U.S. last year.


By Michael Nolan

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