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3,500 Bay Area Sutter Nurses to Strike Tuesday

Press Release, 7/2/12

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Registered nurses at seven Alameda and San Mateo county hospitals operated by the Sutter corporation will begin a one-day strike Tuesday morning, once again protesting a long list of concession demands that they say would undermine patient care protections as well as health and living standards for the RNs.

The strike will affect 3,500 RNs and also several hundred respiratory, X-ray, and other technicians.

Hospitals affected by the strike. Picketing begins at 7 a.m.

  • Alta Bates Summit, Berkeley, 2450 Ashby, Berkeley. Rally at 11 a.m.
  • Alta Bates Summit, Herrick, 2001 Dwight, Berkeley
  • Alta Bates Summit, Oakland, 350 Hawthorne, Oakland. Rally at 1 p.m.
  • Eden Medical Center, 20103 Lake Chabot Road, Castro Valley.
  • Mills-Peninsula, Burlingame, 1501 Trousdale, Burlingame. Rallies at 12:30 p.m. and 5 p.m.
  • Mills-Peninsula, San Mateo, 100 So. San Mateo Drive, San Mateo
  • San Leandro Hospital, 13855 E. 14th Street, San Leandro. Rally at 3 p.m.

Sutter continues to insist on more than 100 widespread, unwarranted reductions despite racking up nearly $4.2 billion in profits since 2005 and holding $11.6 billion in assets. Among the many proposed takeaways are eliminating paid sick leave, which would effectively force RNs to work when ill, dangerously exposing patients with compromised immune systems to further infection, as well as huge increases in nurses’ out-of-pocket costs for their own health coverage.

It has become necessary to strike again as Sutter has dug in its heels and refused to negotiate on any issue on the table,” said Alta Bates Summit RN Mike Hill. They have said they want every takeaway proposed without exception despite record profits and executive salaries. This stance is unacceptable for our nurses, our communities, and our patients.

Hopefully Sutter will understand by this action that it is time to actually negotiate, respect the nurses, and stop the greed that has become so intertwined with Sutter’s image, Hill said.

Alta Bates Summit has been perhaps the most intransigent of the Sutter hospitals, both in demanding the largest number of givebacks from the nurses, and in its often callous disregard for patient safety.

Just last week, for example, Alta Bates Summit agreed to pay a $84,450 fine imposed by the California Department of Occupational Health and Safety for willful misconduct in dangerously exposing staff and first responders to a serious illness that resulted in permanent disabilities for a respiratory tech and an Oakland police officer. Read more about the incident that prompted the fine at http://www.nationalnursesunited.org/news/entry/state-fines-sutter-alta-bates-over-84000-for-willful-failure-to-protect/

The same mentality evident in the hospital’s failure to warn Oakland firefighters and police officers and their own emergency staff about exposure to meningococcal disease “can be seen in Alta Bates Summit and Sutter’s outrageous demand to eliminate paid sick leave for nurses,” says Zenei Cortez, RN, California Nurses Association/National Nurses United co-president.

Putting nurses in a position that effectively forces them to work when sick, recklessly exposing already ill and vulnerable patients to further infection, is a clear sign of a corporation that cares more for its profit ledgers than for public safety,” said Cortez. They risk the lives of public servants by delaying notification of exposure to a serious disease, and they risk the lives of patients by putting their nurses in a position of choosing between their patient’s safety and their own livelihood.

Similarly, Alta Bates has pushed forward with a plan to close a unit at the Alta Bates Summit Herrick hospital in Berkeley that provides care for patients with long-term disabilities. Sutter wants to force families to move loved ones to be warehoused in a nursing home with lesser care in Pleasant Hill. The closure, which was supposed to be final on June 24 has been delayed only because families have refused to allow patients to be moved.

Concession demands at various Sutter hospitals (partial list):

  • Eliminating paid sick leave, effectively forcing nurses to work when ill, exposing already frail and vulnerable patients to further infection
  • Huge increases in nurses’ out-of-pocket costs for health coverage for themselves and family members
  • Limits on the ability of charge nurses, who make clinical assignments for nurses, to address staffing shortages, subjecting patients to the danger of unsafe staffing
  • Forcing RNs to work overtime, exposing patients to care from fatigued nurses who are more prone to making medical errors
  • Eliminating retiree health plans
  • Eliminating all health coverage for nurses who work fewer than 30 hours per week
  • Reduced pregnancy and family medical leave, undermining RN families

Sutter’s record of abandonment at the hospitals affected by the strike (partial list):

  • End breast cancer screening for women with disabilities and most bone marrow transplant services for cancer patients at Alta Bates Summit in Oakland and Berkeley
  • Closure of a sub-acute unit for patients with long-term disabilities in Berkeley
  • Closure of the Cardiac Catherization Lab at the Ashby Campus
  • Closure of Outpatient Infusion at the Herrick Campus
  • Sharply cut psychiatric care at Herrick Hospital in Berkeley
  • Plans to close San Leandro Hospital, an announcement apparently delayed only by Sutter’s efforts to persuade San Francisco officials to support a controversial project at Cathedral Hill
  • Close acute rehabilitation services, skilled nursing care, and psychiatric services, and substantially downgrade nursery care for sick children at Eden Hospital in Castro Valley
  • Close specialized pediatric care, acute rehabilitation, dialysis, and skilled nursing care services at the Mills and Peninsula hospitals in Burlingame and San Mateo and upcoming closure of the emergency room at the Mills campus
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