Nurses to Protest Sutter Alta Bates Summitâ€™s Latest Cuts
Care Austerity Contrasted with Big Exec Pay Increases
Registered Nurses will picket Alta Bates Summit Medical Center’s Berkeley hospital on Wednesday, January 15 to protest Sutter corporation’s latest announced cuts of patient services and nurses and other caregivers.
The RNs will also note the sharp contrast between Sutter’s repeated cuts in patient services with lavish pay packages for top executives.
Sutter Chief Executive Officer Pat Fry received a whopping one-year increase of 22 percent in 2012 from 2011, pushing his annual pay package to $6,393,883 – or a daily pay rate of $24,592. David Bradley, president of Sutter’s East Bay Hospitals had a 19 percent increase in 2012 to an annual rate of $1,986,569, or $7,640 every day.
What: Picket by Alta Bates Summit RNs protesting cuts
When: Wednesday, January 15, 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Where: Alta Bates Medical Center, 2450 Ashby, Berkeley
Alta Bates Summit yesterday announced plans to conduct a unilateral, sweeping restructuring of registered nurse positions, as part of hospital wide restructuring scheme that puts every RN in the hospital at risk, as well as cuts in other staff.
In addition to targeting RNs and other staff, Sutter is moving forward on a new round of major cuts in direct patient care services, including plans to close an inpatient infusion center, an inpatient skilled nursing facility, and an inpatient oncology unit, which provides care for cancer patient at Alta Bates Summit’s Oakland hospital.
The inpatient infusion center will now 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.
On the layoffs, Sutter has refused to provide the RNs exact information about the extent of the cuts, and is demanding RNs rebid on newly created positions that may become positions with very few hours, causing RNs to lose health coverage, pensions, sick leave, or vacation time.
Slashing health coverage for all RNs who work 30 hours a week or less was a major goal of Alta Bates Summit, one of some 200 concessions demanded by the profit rich corporation during the two year fight that ended with a contract late last year preserving that health coverage and rejection of the takeaway demands. Now, says the California Nurses Association/National Nurses Association, Alta Bates is attempting to get those same cuts unilaterally without going through contract negotiations.
Sutter has been cryptic in providing the RNs exact information about the extent of the cuts, and demanding every RN rebid for to retain a job and their livelihood.
"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 speak on a daily basis with RNs who are in units that have a number of unfilled positions. And they are talking about cutting many more? What happens when you have less people to do the same amount of work? It makes the job of providing safe patient care impossible. There is currently no contingency, no margin, no capacity for anything unexpected like a natural disaster such as an earthquake."
Alta Bates Summit Oakland Intensive Care Unit RN Mike Hill notes the infusion center, where patients receive a variety of medications through intravenous drips is a “very busy, and very profitable unit. It’s now going to a facility where there are poorer conditions with no protections for the nurses if they want to speak out for patient safety, have to work often without breaks, and are paid less.”
The elimination of the skilled nursing unit is being carried out, Hill charged, because Sutter Alta Bates simply “doesn’t want to take care of these patients who are not very profitable, and will just farm them out to nursing homes who can’t handle the dressing changes or other complex care these patients who should still be in a hospital setting for care need.”
“All of these changes show what Alta Bates and Sutter most care about, it’s all about profits,” Hill said.
"I have been an RN here for 32 years and I've never seen anything like this,” Gaebler said. “This facility has dramatically changed for the worse since Sutter took over."
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.