Santa Monica RNs Picket Thursday – Call on Hospital To Stop Stalling, Negotiate Fair Contract, Safe Staffing

Santa Monica, CA–(ENEWSPF)–February 16, 2012.  Registered nurses at Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica will picket the hospital Thursday morning to protest what they see as stalling by hospital officials in reaching a fair negotiated agreement for the RNs that would enhance patient safety and help retain experienced RNs at the hospital.

The California Nurses Association/National Nurses United represents some 500 RNs at Saint John’s who voted last May to join CNA. But the hospital has moved glacially slow in agreeing to dates to negotiate a first contract for the nurses, and taken a hard line on some key issues that nurses say undermine the quality of care and improving standards for RNs.

The nurses have proposed over 100 bargaining dates, but the hospital management has agreed to only 13 to date, hardly showing much desire to achieve a fair agreement with its RNs.

A key issue in the dispute is safe staffing. Under California law, all acute care hospitals are requiring to meet minimum requirements for the number of patients per RN. Most CNA hospitals have agreed to include RN ratios in the collective bargaining contract. Saint John’s wants to use lesser licensed staff in the ratio count.

“We have no interest in revisiting the fight we had with the hospital industry five years ago over interpretation of ratios,” said Saint John’s RN Lori Hammond. “Ratios must be RN-to-patient ratios, period.”

A second major issue is compensation. Saint John’s pays nurses substantially below, what RNs earn in other nearby CNA-represented hospitals, and the hospital has no consistency, some nurses with 25 to 30 years of experience are paid less than some new hires.

The overall effect is devastating for patients as the hospital hemorrhages experienced RNs. Half the nurses at Saint John’s have been hired since 2006 because of retention failure, says CNA. Talented new RN graduates are trained at Saint John’s then leave to work at other CNA hospitals where they are treated with more respect and higher compensation, such as UCLA Santa Monica just down the street, nurses say.