Press Release

Barton RNs to hold two-day strike April 16-17

Union Nurses Keep Tahoe Safe: Support Your Local Nurses

Nurses to hold virtual press conference and virtual rally

Registered nurses at Barton Memorial Hospital in South Lake Tahoe, Calif. will hold a two-day strike starting on April 16, 2021 as Barton’s board of directors is refusing to address persistent patient safety issues, including short staffing and deepening nurse recruitment and retention problems, the California Nurses Association (CNA) announced today. The strike will kick off with a virtual press conference and a virtual rally.

“As a longtime member of this community, and a longtime nurse at Barton Memorial Hospital, it breaks my heart to see so many nurses leave our hospital due to the poor working conditions, the short-staffing issues, and the board’s general disrespect for the nurses,” said Dorothy Dean, a registered nurse who works in the emergency room. “Throughout the pandemic, nurses literally put their lives on the line working without adequate personal protective equipment, without clear protocols for how to safely provide care, and by logging hours of overtime when our community needed us most. We are proud to have cared for our patients during such a difficult year, now it is time for Barton’s board of directors to show us the respect we deserve and work with us to settle a contract that allows us to provide the highest quality of care to our patients.”

  • What:    Virtual Press Conference
  • When:   Friday, April 16, 12:30 p.m.
  •               Register for the press conference here:

Dean says many nurses have left the hospital this year already, and the hospital’s own data indicates that more than 13 percent of the nurses left the hospital last year.

“Barton will tell you the percentage of nurses who have left in the last couple years and will write it off as normal, but I have worked shoulder to shoulder with many of them. I know their names, their skills, the care they gave, and their stories.” said Rachelle Pakes, a registered nurse who works in the GI lab and a Tahoe native. “These nurses make up the fabric of our community. Some have been at the hospital for ten years or even 30 years. When they leave, we lose a valuable and skillful care provider and mentor for the new nurses.”

“Barton Memorial Hospital treats nurses like medical supply equipment, using them up until they break,” said Dean. "The loss of experienced nurses coupled with short staffing is likely to result in negative outcomes for the patient on the gurney."

Nurses note that while many RNs leave because the compensation and benefits do not allow nurses to live in the community, the CEO of Barton Health, Dr. Clint Purvance earned $751,766 in total compensation in 2019, according to Barton’s 990 tax filing. Notably, Dr. Purvance’s compensation had increased by almost 25 percent from 2018.

Tax records show that while Barton gets huge tax breaks as a nonprofit and earned a net income of nearly $29 million in 2019, Barton provided just $1.8 million in charity care that year, a figure which represents just 1.37 percent of its operating costs.

“It is unconscionable to me that Barton’s board of directors, which oversees an organization with assets worth $300 million, is willing to pay an exorbitant salary to a CEO yet is so stingy when it comes to providing for those in need in our own community,” said Dean.

Nurses condemn Barton’s punitive practice of locking out striking nurses, saying the move is intended to break the union and creates additional stress for nurses, who are advocating on behalf of their patients. Furthermore, nurses say the practice is costly and takes money away from patient care. They note that Barton was willing to pay out more than $2 million to replacement workers during two lockouts in 2019.

Barton nurses voted overwhelmingly to join the California Nurses Association in 2017. They began negotiations in March 2018, bringing issues such as unsafe staffing, turnover, and health benefits to the bargaining table. The nurses struck in May and September of 2019 over unsafe working conditions and Barton’s practice of sending nurses into collections over medical debt owed to Barton. The contract remains unresolved.

The two-day strike will start on April 16 at 7:30 a.m. and end on April 18 at 7:29 a.m.

Nurses will picket outside Barton Memorial Hospital at 2170 South Ave, South Lake Tahoe.

The California Nurses Association/National Nurses United is the largest and fastest-growing union and professional association of registered nurses in the nation with 100,000 members in more than 200 facilities throughout California and more than 170,000 RNs nationwide.