RNs to Strike 9 Bay Area Hospitals Monday
Protest against cuts that would set back nursing care standards for decades
Drastic reductions in mental health services, elimination of healthcare coverage for 1,500 Sutter RNs and their families, and loss of sick leave
Registered nurses are holding a year-end one-day strike at nine Bay Area hospitals on Monday, Dec. 24, protesting big hospital demands for major cuts in nurses’ and patient care standards. The walkout will affect close to 5,000 RNs represented by the California Nurses Association/National Nurses United at Bay Area Sutter facilities and two San Jose hospitals.
Picket lines will be up from 7:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. There will be a “Vigil for Peace” to honor the lives lost in Newtown, Connecticut at 2:00 p.m. at both the Alta Bates campus in Berkeley and the Summit campus in Oakland.
RNs are on strike at Sutter’s Alta Bates Summit Medical Center facilities in Berkeley and Oakland, Eden Medical Center in Castro Valley, San Leandro Hospital, Sutter Solano in Vallejo, and Sutter Delta in Antioch, as well as at two San Jose HCA-affiliated hospitals, Good Samaritan Hospital and Regional Medical Center.
Hospitals where RNs will be on strike:
- Alta Bates Summit Medical Center Berkeley, 2450 Ashby, Berkeley and 350 Hawthorne Ave., Oakland
- Alta Bates Summit Medical Center, Oakland, 450 30th Street, Oakland
- Eden Medical Center, 20103 Lake Chabot Road, Castro Valley
- Sutter Delta, Antioch, 3901 Lone Tree Way, Antioch
- Sutter Solano, Vallejo, 300 Hospital Drive, Vallejo
- San Leandro Hospital, 13855 E. 14th Street, San Leandro
- Good Samaritan Hospital, 2425 Samaritan Drive, San Jose
- Regional Medical Center, 225 North Jackson Avenue, San Jose
- Herrick Hospital, Berkeley (Note-Herrick RNs are on strike but there will be no picket line at this facility)
“Sutter has forced us to strike again by immorally proposing to strip us of our sick leave, healthcare, and much of what we have worked hard for over the years,” said Alta Bates Summit Oakland RN Paula Lynn. “Sutter must stop its unfair treatment of nurses and negotiate a fair contract.”
Sutter corporate officials, taking an especially hard line in the Sutter East Bay Region, continue to demand some 100 sweeping cuts in patient care protections and nurses’ contract standards – despite being one of the wealthiest hospital chains in the United States.
In contrast, Sutter hospitals in San Mateo, Sonoma, and Lake counties have broken the pattern and called off their war on nurses and patients by withdrawing their unwarranted concession demands. The hospital’s change in position led to quick contract settlements at those facilities.
But at Sutter Alta Bates Summit Medical Center hospitals in Berkeley and Oakland, for example, management continues to insist on elimination of paid sick leave, and significant cuts when nurses are on medical leaves effectively forcing nurses to work when ill, and exposing already frail and vulnerable patients to further infection.
Sutter East Bay Region executives are also demanding the elimination of all health coverage for nurses and techs who work fewer than 30 hours per work – which would end health benefits entirely for well over 550 nurses and more than 30 techs in the East Bay Sutter facilities, affecting them and their families, a proposal nurses call unconscionable and immoral.
In San Jose, the key issues are hospital management’s rejection of the nurses’ proposals for improvements in safe staffing and other patient care conditions, including sufficient staff for incoming patients and designated lift teams to safely move and transport patients to reduce accidents and injuries to nurses and patients alike. Additionally, the nurses are protesting employer demands to eliminate guaranteed pensions for RNs as well as major cuts in health, dental, and vision care benefits.
Mental health cuts prompt growing alarm at Sutter hospitals
For months, Sutter RNs have also criticized Sutter’s severe cuts in patient care services throughout the region. The effects are especially alarming in mental health services, an issue gaining national attention in the wake of the horrific shooting at a Connecticut elementary school last week.
Sutter has slashed the number of in-patient beds for both adult and adolescent mental health patients at its Alta Bates Herrick facility, the main Sutter facility providing East Bay regional mental health services, and has increasingly focused instead on private-paying patients with eating disorders.
The regional problem was exacerbated by the closure earlier this year of the inpatient psychiatric unit at Eden and the decision to route those patients to Herrick for needed care, although nurses at Herrick note there has not been an influx of patients formerly seen at Eden’s inpatient psychiatric unit.
“At a time when mental illness is on the rise Sutter Health in particular, has made major cuts in services throughout its psychiatric units—adolescent, adult and geriatric---nothing has been spared,” noted Efren Garza, who has worked as both an adult and adolescent psychiatric RN for 26 years, the last nine at Herrick. “At a time of diminishing services, we are witnessing a tide of sicker patients being admitted and too often prematurely discharged only to return again.”
Sutter RNs’ offered to withdraw their strike notice if Sutter executives agreed to withdraw their demands for sweeping and unwarranted reductions in patient care protections and other contract standards. Their offer went unheeded.
On top of the concession demands and cuts in care, Sutter has committed unfair labor practices, says CNA.
RNs Speak Out:
“Nurses have made the difficult decision to strike for one day for the future of our hospital and our growing community,” said Amy Santos, an RN in the telemetry care unit at Regional Medical Center, an HCA affiliate. “Like so many of my colleagues, I have raised a family here in San Jose. We need to have patient care protections such as safe patient lifting, and appropriate staffing at all times as patients are admitted and discharged throughout the day. That is not the case on the majority of our units at this time.”
The San Jose nurses are also protesting the slow pace of bargaining, particularly the hospitals’ cancellation of bargaining scheduled this week.
“Our concern for our patients and for the future of our hospitals is at the heart of this strike,” said Lindy Herrera, who has been a neonatal intensive care RN at Good Samaritan Hospital, an HCA affiliate for 24 years.
“Undercutting our ability to compete for the best-qualified nurses by driving down our benefits and rejecting our attempts to enhance staffing is unwarranted. Our contract demands take into account the financial viability of our hospitals and the chain we work for and ensure we can retain and recruit the most qualified nurses to our hospital.”
Alta Bates Berkeley RN Rochelle Pardue-Okimoto explains, “We do not want to strike and have offered to settle with our current contract, but Sutter refuses, appearing more interested in union busting than negotiating. As a nurse, I will never give up my union rights as that gives me a voice in the hospital and gives the patient an advocate. My special interest is not making money, it is delivering quality care to my patients."
“Sutter Solano nurses must strike because Sutter has not demonstrated any economic justification for the sacrifices they want nurses to make,” said Janet Braillard, Sutter Solano RN. “While the CEOs continue to enrich themselves by millions in salaries, we are only asking for fairness.”
Sutter has rolled up more than $4.2 billion in profits since 2005 and pays 28 top executives more than $1 million in compensation, by far the most lavish spending on executives among all California hospital systems. Sutter CEO Pat Fry received more than $5.2 million in total compensation in 2011, according to Sutter’s IRS filings, an increase of 183 percent in just four years. Sutter East Bay Region President David Bradley’s 2011 compensation exceeded $1.6 million, a whopping 216 percent increase in four years.