Registered nurses at Seton authorize a strike
RNs cite patient safety concerns and failure of AHMC to address staffing and supply crises
Registered nurses at AHMC Seton Medical Center (Seton) in Daly City, Calif. voted to authorize a strike in response to the hospital owner’s failure to address critical and persistent patient care issues and the shuttering of vital services, announced California Nurses Association today. The nurses held a one-day strike in March of this year.
“The last thing we want to do is strike. We love our patients, our hospital, and our community, but AHMC has failed all of us and we need to call attention to these critical concerns before it is too late,” said Michelle Kubota, a registered nurse at Seton. “Since AHMC has assumed ownership, we have lost over 80 nurses and continue to lose more nurses weekly. Nurses have sacrificed for nearly 10 years to keep Seton open and we are working through the most challenging health care crisis in recent history. We show up for work and try to do our very best despite unsafe staffing, a lack of supplies, and untenable working conditions. We are exhausted and have suffered serious moral injury. It is too much for some nurses and they are leaving.”
Nurses have been in contract negotiations with AHMC since December 2021. But nurses charge that AHMC management is impeding any progress by refusing to address the nurses’ concerns and by canceling scheduled meetings at the last minute.
In addition, Seton has closed two hospital units which serve vulnerable elderly patients from across Northern California. In March, AHMC permanently shuttered its skilled nursing facility that provided essential care to elderly and other patients who were unable to be discharged home and still need a certain level of nursing care. Many of these patients were transferred to another unit 30 miles away, which places an additional burden on family and friends who visit and support their loved ones.
In May, AHMC abruptly closed down the geriatric psychiatric unit, one of very few in the state that provides highly skilled psychiatric care to geriatric patients suffering mental health crises. This unit accepts patients from as far away as San Luis Obispo and Yuba counties. The unit has won awards and is a valuable revenue source for the hospital. Management says the unit should reopen in six months, but nurses say these patients should have been relocated to vacant space at the hospital while seismic repairs are made.
AHMC continually fails to staff units appropriately, which has led to an increase in falls and patient care delays. In the Covid unit, nurses report an increase in falls due to lack of ancillary staff and management forcing charge nurses (who are meant to facilitate workflow and be a resource on a unit) to take on direct patient assignments. Nurses report that delays in labs due to a lack of staff have kept patients in the hospital longer than necessary, including one patient who was kept an additional night.
RNs report that units are often out of compliance with safe-staffing ratios, and there is a persistent lack of supplies including oxygen, surgery supplies, wipes, diapers, and other bed pads.
“We are scrambling to locate supplies for the patients, answer family questions about their loved ones, while caring for more patients than is mandated by California’s safe-staffing laws,” said Osha Atogwe, a registered nurse.
If no progress is made in negotiations, nurses will give the hospital a strike notice 10 days prior to any scheduled strike date.
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 175,000 RNs nationwide.