Alhambra Nurses Vote by 97 Percent to Authorize Strike
RNs Condemn Unsafe Patient Care Conditions as Management Stalls Contract Talks
Registered nurses at Alhambra Hospital Medical Center (AHMC) conducted strike votes this week, after over a year of stalled contract talks and what nurses say is a failure of management to come to the table over serious patient care issues—and the result was a resounding 97 percent yes vote, California Nurses Association (CNA) announced today.
The vote authorizes a strike should contract negotiations not progress sufficiently, say nurses. A strike date has not yet been set. AHMC nurses have been attempting to bargain a contract that addresses key employment and patient safety issues for more than a year following their successful election to join CNA in January, 2017.
“As nurses, we want to be at the bedside, taking care of our patients, in conditions that are safe—for us, and for those in our care. Striking is always a last resort,” said Farah Gerami, RN. “But we have been trying, for over a year now, to get management to address unsafe staffing, faulty equipment and other issues at the hospital that put our community at risk. If they continue to leave critical issues unaddressed, our nurses have now voted to stand strong, together, and do whatever it takes to keep our patients and our colleagues safe.”
According to RNs, key issues at the hospital include:
Unsafe staffing/lack of meal and rest break relief – Nurses say the hospital is out of compliance with California’s mandated nurse-to-patient ratio law, which puts safety limits on how many patients nurses can be assigned at once, by failing to provide “meal and break relief” coverage so an RN can eat or rest. When RNs attempt to take a break, according to nurses, a colleague who already has a full patient load of her own must also cover her coworker’s full patient load—resulting in conditions deemed unsafe by California law.
“Studies have shown again and again that nurses, who are often working 12-hour shifts, need a chance to take a break, and also need a safety limit on how many patients we are assigned, otherwise patient care suffers,” said Gerami. “We made an oath to protect our patients, and we can’t stand by while Alhambra management cuts corners by failing to provide enough dedicated nurses to care for patients at all times.”
Faulty equipment: Computers used for charting critical patient information have been experiencing battery issues, say nurses, leading to a shortage of functioning equipment.
“How can we provide the kind of care our patients deserve when we have to chase down a functioning computer to even chart their information?” asked Ana Vasquez, RN. “What we are saying to management is, ‘Invest in our patients.’ We cannot cut corners on their health and safety.”
Need for RN committee to meet with management to address patient care issues: Nurses say management has stalled on establishing a nurse Professional Practice Committee (PPC), made up of nurse leaders from units throughout the hospital, which would meet with management regularly to address patient care issues. RNs say the PPC is a critical way for hospital administration to stay informed about the issues impacting patients at the bedside, enabling the hospital to provide high quality care for patients in the community.
“Our nurses voted to unionize last year because we knew that our collective voice is what would help raise the volume on serious patient care issues at Alhambra Hospital Medical Center,” said Vasquez. “Since that time, we have been trying again and again to get management to address these issues that impact the health and safety of both nurses and patients. If they continue to leave RNs and patients at risk, what this strike vote has shown is that our bedside nurses have the will and courage to walk out, if necessary, because as patient advocates, we simply cannot stand by and let these issues go unaddressed.”