Petaluma Nurses Plan June 13 Walkout
RNs to Picket Eureka, Apple Valley St. Joseph Hospitals in Support
Registered nurses at Petaluma Valley Hospital in Petaluma will hold a one-day strike Wednesday, June 13 to protest hospital administration demands for economic cuts which will lead to what the nurses say is illegal cuts in professional nursing practice standards and diminished patient care standards the California Nurses Association/National Nurses United announced today.
CNA represents 140 RNs at Petaluma Valley. The hospital is part of the Orange County-based St. Joseph Health System. RNs at two other St. Joseph hospitals, St. Joseph Hospital, Eureka, and St. Mary Medical Center in Apple Valley, will picket June 13 in support of their RN colleagues in Petaluma and to show their own displeasure with St. Joseph policies. There are 375 RNs at St. Joseph and 400 RNs at Apple Valley.
"Nurses at Petaluma Valley Hospital have had enough,” said Petaluma RN Kitty Brown. “St. Joseph Health System has engaged in illegal bad faith bargaining and unilaterally implemented cuts that have a direct impact on our ability to provide safe patient care. The hospital has cut our resources to the bone and we will be on the streets on June 13 to advocate for our patients and our community."
"Eureka nurses will be standing in solidarity with Petaluma nurses, but frankly, we have enough patient safety issues to bring to the public's attention,” said St. Joseph, Eureka RN Susan Johnson. “St. Joseph Health System has laid off dozens of our coworkers, eliminated our lift team, and constantly puts 'productivity' before patient care."
At Petaluma, a major issue is what they RNs say is an unwarranted, 40 percent cut in “stand-by” pay for RNs who are required to be available to work, which is significantly below community standards, and will lead to an exodus of experienced nurses. The hospital demands a substantial portion of nurses be on call to come in to work rather than providing regular scheduled staffing, which has led to chronic understaffing at the facility. Being on call has always been voluntary, but now RNs are being forced into 48-hour and 72-hour call shifts, which will seriously endanger patient care.
The result is far too many nurses being “on call” to work for up to 72 hours. This practice has led to not only serious short staffing, that puts patients at risk, but also fatigue for nurses forced to be on call for long periods of time that affects their readiness to provide safe care if called in.
Petaluma’s policy on this, and other patient care and employment practices, is well below the standard of other Northern California, CNA-represented hospitals, say the nurses, which is prompting growing numbers of experienced RNs to leave Petaluma for other area hospitals. That undermines the overall quality of care available for Petaluma-area residents, the RNs say.
The hospital’s staffing practices are part of what the RNs view as a pattern of practices that jeopardize patient safety and the ability of nurses to safely advocate for patients. CNA has filed charges with the National Labor Relations Board asserting the hospital is violating federal labor law with illegal implementation of cuts that adversely affect quality of care.
There had been only six bargaining sessions when PVH management implemented part of its proposals unilaterally in February, then declared impasse on the cuts in call pay in May and implemented them.
While the strike is only scheduled for one day, the hospital has already announced it plans a punitive four-day lockout of the RNs beyond the strike date.