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Children’s Oakland RNs Propose Better Safety Measures

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For Immediate Release
November 19, 2010

Registered Nurses from Children’s Hospital Oakland Thursday called on hospital executives to take significant steps to stem workplace violence and improve public safety for patients, nurses, and other staff in the wake of incidents at Children’s and other hospitals, such as the recent death of an RN in Contra Costa County.

Meeting with hospital officials Thursday, the RNs, who are in negotiations with the hospital for a new collective bargaining agreement, proposed additional, tougher contract language with a focus on prevention.

The goal, they said, is to “provide a safe, secure, and therapeutic environment for the delivery of healthcare services to patients” and a “secure workplace for employees.”

Specifically, the nurses are calling on the hospital to establish a Safety and Security Plan with measures “to protect staff, patients, and visitors from aggressive or violent behavior” that is regularly evaluated and updated, a Safety and Security Committee to develop safety and security protocols, paid safety training, and to create a 24-hour safety response team to assist RNs in the event of potentially violent situations.

 Though California has a law, first passed in 1993, directing hospitals to have security plans, the law has proved inadequate, especially as more incidents have occurred across the state, according to the California Nurses Association which represents the RNs at Children’s. An example was the killing of an RN by an inmate at Contra Costa Regional Medical Center’s correctional facility.

Assembly member Mary Hayashi at CNA’s request will be introducing new legislation for the upcoming session to strengthen protections throughout the state.

While Children’s officials told the nurses that the hospital has procedures in place, the nurses noted that whatever the hospital is doing is wholly inadequate – and noted a number of recent events.

In recent months, for example, on one occasion an armed gunman came into the emergency room and held an RN and ward clerk hostage.

Then in October, shortly after a brief strike by nurses over hospital demands for significant reductions in health coverage, during which the hospital hired large numbers of temporary security staff to protect the property from the nurses, another incident occurred just after the new security team had left and the RNs had returned to work.

A critically injured patient who had been shot was dropped off in front of the hospital door. But after nurses started caring for the patient, adequate security was not provided when other armed individuals showed up posing a threat to the nurses.

“As a staff nurse at Children's I am concerned regarding the hospital's priorities in response to recent security breaches,” said Children’s RN Martha Kuhl. “The hospital chose to spend a lot of money on additional security measures when nurses engaged in a peaceful work stoppage protesting the hospital's attempt to cut our health care benefits, but immediately cut back on security just before the October incident.

“Nurses want to be able to concentrate on our patients care and not do double duty as security personnel. By introducing the proposal in negotiations we hope the Hospital will decide to work with us cooperatively to make our workplace safe for our patients, their families and all hospital employees,” said Kuhl.

Talks between the RNs and the hospital are scheduled to resume in December.

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