Tuesday, October 02, 2007


The always feisty California Nurses Association (CNA) says it is issuing a 10-day strike notice to 15 Northern California hospitals, many of them in the Bay Area. The strike is likely to last two days. However, CNA spokesman Shum Preston, warned it "may be longer and messier" than just a two-day walkout.

"There has not been a nurses' strike this big in the Bay Area, the state or the nation in at least a decade, since our strike against Kaiser (Permanente) in the mid-1990s," according to Preston. The union said the threatened walkout is over a variety of issues, including retirement security, "proposed reductions in nurses' health-care benefits," and safe patient care practices, including what the union describes as Sutter's plans to reduce patient care services in San Francisco, San Leandro and Santa Rosa.

The San Francisco Business Times reports Sutter said early this year that it planned to close a leased hospital in Santa Rosa, sell another and scuttle plans to build a $250 million replacement there. The closure of the Chanate Road campus of Sutter Medical Center of Santa Rosa will be closed by next year, Sutter said, and the Warrack hospital that is part of Sutter Santa Rosa will be sold. Between them, the two campuses have 238 staffed beds and employ about 1,000 workers. The union says Sutter has plans to cut services at its California Pacific Medical Center and St. Luke's Hospital in San Francisco, as well as at San Leandro Hospital, but Sutter officials at Castro Valley's Eden Medical Center denied in recent weeks that Sutter has plans to make cuts at San Leandro.

The following is from the California Nurses Association.

Strike By 5,500 RNs Could Hit 16 N. Calif. Hospitals - Nurses Cite Concerns About Quality Patient Care
02 Oct 2007

Registered nurses announced they will strike up to 16 Northern California hospitals with 5,500 RNs, mostly in the Bay Area, in a two-day October walkout that would place a spotlight on patient care practices and health security for the nurses at the Sutter Health chain and other facilities.

The October 10-11 strike could affect 13 Bay Area Sutter hospitals, the Fremont-Rideout Health Group in Yuba City and Marysville and, possibly, Children's Hospital Oakland, said the California Nurses Association/National Nurses Organizing Committee which represents the RNs.

Sutter facilities affected include Alta Bates Summit Medical Center with facilities in Berkeley and Oakland, Mills-Peninsula Health Services in Burlingame and San Mateo, San Leandro Hospital, Eden Medical Center in Castro Valley, Sutter Delta in Antioch, Sutter Solano in Vallejo, California Pacific Medical Center and St. Luke's hospitals in San Francisco, Sutter Santa Rosa, Sutter Marin General Hospital in Greenbrae, and Sutter Novato.

"We are deeply concerned about the quality of care and the availability of patient services in communities that have long supported Sutter hospitals," said Jan Rodolfo, an RN at Summit and chair of the CNA/NNOC Sutter wide Facility Bargaining Council. "Inadequate staffing is a persistent problem at Sutter facilities. No one understands what staffing we need to provide safe patient care better than bedside nurses."

"It's notable that the same patient care issues and concerns are seen at all 10 hospitals, which appears to reflect the corporate influence of the importance of the bottom line at the sacrifice of patient care," said Genel Morgan, an RN in the cardiac intensive care unit at Mills-Peninsula Health Services and is a member of the CNA nurse negotiating team.

"RNs take the possibility of a strike very seriously and Sutter nurses believe that if conditions don't improve, a strike may be the only answer, "said Jonica Brooks, an RN at CPMC.

"There is an exodus of experienced RNs that will only get worse if we don't provide the same standards provided by most other Northern California hospitals," said Sherry Ramsey, a critical care RN at Sutter Solano in Vallejo.

"I want to help my patients, neighbors and families to have a safe medical facility to care for them," said Fremont-Rideout RN Lorrie Hart, "and that means FRHG has work to do."

Safe care for patients, health security for RNs.

Among the key issues in Sutter are:

Patient care.

RN-to-patient ratios. CNA wants all the Sutter hospitals to include the state mandated RN staffing ratios, in their contracts to add the legal clout of their contract to enforce safe staffing at all times. Different Sutter hospitals have different language, and California Pacific is refusing to guarantee adherence to the ratios at all.

Break relief. The RNs want Sutter to guarantee it will maintain safe staffing, including full adherence to the ratios, when RNs are on meal or rest breaks.

Rapid response. CNA proposed that each Sutter facility have a rapid response team support, including a critical care RN and respiratory therapist to intervene and stabilize patients which healthcare experts say has been valuable in saving lives of patients in emergencies. Further, CNA is calling for an admittance RN in emergency departments to speed up patient assessments and placements, which also promotes patient safety and recovery.

Safe patient handling. The RNs want all Sutter facilities to have a lift team on hand at all times to assist with handling of patients, which is important to prevent accidents and falls, and reduce caregiver back and other injuries. Many CNA contracts provide for lift teams.

No cuts in patient services. CNA is strongly protesting Sutter plans to close San Leandro and Santa Rosa, and slash acute care services at St. Luke's and CPMC in San Francisco.

Protecting and maintaining RN health care benefits.

Sutter is proposing for various hospitals reduction in current benefits, including increased costs for RNs in premiums, deductibles, and co-payments, for office visits, emergency care, other medical procedures, and prescription drugs.

At some facilities, Sutter wants to reduce provider option for RNs which in some facilities, such as Solano and Delta where there are fewer medical facilities and providers, would sharply limit the ability of the nurses and their families to receive timely medical care.

At Alta Bates and Summit, Sutter wants to force the RNs to submit to participation in a "wellness" program, including coaching by a non-healthcare professional six times a year, or face substantial increase in health care costs.

At California Pacific, Sutter is demanding CNA agree to allow management to unilaterally reduce health benefits at any time. CPMC is also insisting on receiving a waiver of its obligation under city ordinance to assure its nurses access to sick leave.

Retirement security

Pensions. CNA is proposing that Sutter increase the value of its retirement plan, by agreeing to eliminate a deduction for Social Security benefits, so that RNs can retire with dignity.

Post-retirement medical care. CNA is seeking enhancements in retiree health to assure RNs have all their retiree health needs met.

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