Press Release

Alta Bates Summit RNs Warn Staffing Shortages Pose Increasing Risk for Oakland, Berkeley Patients

Oakland Press Conference Thursday – 4 p.m.

Hospital Execs Ignoring an Escalating Care Crisis, RNs Say

Registered nurses at Sutter’s Alta Bates Summit Medical Center will hold a press conference Thursday outside the hospital’s Oakland facility to alert the public to an escalating crisis in safe patient care because of chronic short staffing that RNs say is ignored by hospital management.

Over the past year alone, Alta Bates Summit RNs have submitted to hospital managers some 500 reports of what they say are unsafe assignments required of the RNs. Yet hospital officials routinely ignore the problems and fail to fix the problems that are now widespread affecting units throughout the Oakland and Berkeley hospitals, RNs note.

The California Nurses Association will display copies of the reports, called Assignment Despite Objection forms, at the press conference.

What:      RN Press Conference on Patient Safety

When:     Thursday, February 13, 4 p.m.

Where:   Alta Bates Summit, Oakland, 350 Hawthorne, Oakland

"As nurses, it is our obligation to inform the public when we believe our patients are in danger. Patient safety is our number one priority. We will not wait for a tragedy to occur before we inform the community about our patient safety concerns," said Alta Bates Summit RN Rochelle Pardue-Okimoto.

“Nursing ratios represent one of the fundamental core principles of quality patient care,” said Alta Bates Summit RN Mike Hill. “Sutter has ignored that principle on a daily basis in the pursuit of record profits. This has made it increasingly difficult for nurses to provide safe quality care that all our patients deserve.”

To make matters worse, Alta Bates Summit is now proposing layoffs, cutting patient services, and re-organizing RN positions in a manner that RNs say will lead to further inadequate staffing. 

"We already have critical short-staffing of RNs and ancillary staff in many units,” says Ann Gaebler, RN a neo-natal intensive care unit RN at Alta Bates, Berkeley.  "I have been an RN here for 32 years and I've never seen anything like this,” Gaebler said.

The new round includes plans to close an inpatient infusion center, an inpatient skilled nursing facility, and an inpatient oncology unit, which provides care for cancer patients at the Oakland hospital.

The inpatient infusion center would be shifted to a for-profit outpatient cancer facility owned by Alta Bates at its Herrick facility in Berkeley which is run with non-union RNs working in a non-acute care setting with lesser standards, lower pay and no protection against retaliation for patient advocacy.

The patients in the skilled nursing unit will simply be discharged into nursing homes in the future, even though many of them still have critical patient care needs that can not be met by lesser staffed nursing home facilities.

Concurrently, Alta Bates plans to conduct a unilateral, sweeping restructuring of registered nurse positions, as part of hospital wide restructuring scheme demanding RNs rebid on newly created positions that may come with very few hours, causing RNs to lose health coverage, pensions, sick leave, or vacation time.

Sutter has been steadily slashing services at hospitals around the region. The latest cuts can be added to a recent and extensive list of cuts just at Alta Bates Summit.

That list includes closures of the Cardiac Cath unit at the Berkeley campus, the Pulmonary Sub-Acute unit at the Herrick campus, the Antepartum testing unit at Summit, Inpatient Infusion unit at Herrick, cuts in adolescent and geriatric psychiatric beds, and the discontinuation of bone marrow transplants and breast cancer screenings at the Alta Bates campus.