6,000 California RNs Begin One-Day Strike

Walkout to Target Bay Area Sutter Hospitals, Long Beach Memorial – Nurses Cite Patient Care Issues, Cuts in Healthcare Coverage

CALIFORNIA–(ENEWSPF)–December 22, 2011. Voicing concern over the erosion of quality of care and cuts to patient protections, nurses are on a one-day strike today at California’s second largest private hospital and one of its most profitable corporate hospital chains.

The strike affects 2,000 RNs at Long Beach Memorial Medical Center and Miller Children’s Hospital in Long Beach, and 4,000 RNs who work at nine Bay Area facilities that are part of the Sutter Health corporation.

Rallies are scheduled today at:

  • Long Beach: 2801 Atlantic Avenue – 12 noon   
  • Berkeley: Alta Bates 2450 Ashby Avenue – 12 noon
  • Oakland: Alta Bates Summit Campus, 350 Hawthorne Avenue – 4 p.m.
  • Burlingame: Mills-Peninsula Medical Center, 1501 Trousdale Drive – 2 p.m.

Long Beach, Sutter RNs striking
RNs on the picket line this morning at Long Beach, left, and Alta Bates Summit in Oakland

Long Beach RNs have been at odds with hospital management for months over assuring there is safe RN-to-patient staffing at all times, and over the hospital’s refusal to implement safe patient lift policies to prevent accidents to patients and injuries to nurses, despite enactment of a state law requiring such policy.

Long Beach nurses will also protest hospital demands for sweeping increases in healthcare premiums for nurses. The health care takeaway the hospital is pushing would cost RNs nearly $3,000 more out of pocket in premium costs, even though the hospital’s costs for nurses’ health coverage has not risen.

For the Sutter hospitals, nurses will be striking to protest some 150 demands for major contract concessions in patient protections and health coverage for the RNs and their families. Sutter this week refused to respond to an offer by the nurses to call off the strike if the corporation withdrew its concession demands.

Sutter seeks to limit the RNs’ ability to effectively advocate for patients against the budget-focused priorities of Sutter managers and effectively force nurses to work when sick, dangerously exposing extremely ill patients to infection.

Additionally, Sutter RNs oppose management’s bid to reduce nurses’ healthcare coverage, with huge increases in nurses’ out-of-pocket costs for health coverage, elimination of health benefits for part-time RNs, and other cuts that would result in thousands of dollars in economic loss for RNs. All at a time when Sutter has amassed over $3.7 billion in profits since 2005, pays over $1 million to each of 20 top corporate executives, and increased their CEO Pat Fry’s salary by 20% to $4.7 million last year.

The one-day Bay Area walkout will affect Alta Bates Summit Medical Center facilities in Berkeley and Oakland, Mills-Peninsula Health Services hospitals in Burlingame and San Mateo, Eden Medical Center hospitals in Castro Valley and San Leandro, Sutter Delta in Antioch, and Sutter Solano in Vallejo.

Sutter’s proposal to eliminate sick leave will force nurses to come to work sick which will further jeopardize our fragile patients, “ said Hebron Viray, oncology RN at Alta Bates’ Berkeley campus.
“Sutter’s proposal to eliminate charge nurses threatens high-quality patient care and our ability to maintain patient safety and patient advocacy,” said Teresa Mullen, a charge nurse at the Oakland campus of Alta Bates Summit.
Additionally, RNs will also continue their protest against Sutter’s slash and burn reductions of patient services throughout Northern California. Sutter has targeted hospitals serving more low income patients in San Francisco and San Leandro for full or partial closures, and carried out huge reductions in patient services it deems less profitable, regardless of the impact on patients, especially mental health services, women’s health care, pediatric care, rehab services, and dialysis care.

Sutter is also notorious for skimping on charity care, despite its great wealth. A recent report by the University of California Hastings College of Law on Sutter’s California Pacific Medical Center found that Sutter spends far less on charity care than other private hospitals in San Francisco, despite being the city’s most profitable private hospital.

At Long Beach, “nurses are tired of having to fight everyday to protect their patients because of speed up and cost cutting measures,” said RN leader Margie Keenan.

“We are finding it harder to give the quality care we want to give when our employer, like insurance companies, is only focused on the bottom line,” said Keenan.  “This undermines our ability to deliver safe patient care.   Our serious safety concerns have not been answered at the bargaining table and we will not be able to reach an agreement until they are addressed.  Patients are more important than the bottom line.”

Long Beach nurses are particularly alarmed about their ability to take meal and rest breaks during which the hospital frequently does not have sufficient staff to meet minimum safety standards required by California law.

“When the hospital does not staff to provide meals and breaks for nurses, it is detrimental to patient care.  Our patients require and deserve to have the continued care they expect from our hospital,” said Long Beach RN. Allison Miller.


Summer and Fall at Prairie State College