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5,000 Northern California Nurses to Vote to Authorize Third Strike Against Sutter Chain
Date:2/27/2008

Nurses Concerned Over Serious, Ongoing Patient Care Problems Throughout

System

Sutter Solano First to Vote - Overwhelming Yes

OAKLAND, Calif., Feb. 27 /PRNewswire/ -- In the face of what they describe as a "hostile" bargaining attitude by Sutter Health, registered nurses at 11 Sutter Health facilities in the Bay Area will vote this week and next on whether to authorize their bargaining teams to strike the hospital chain for a third time over serious issues of patient safety and patient care, as well as healthcare for nurses, the California Nurses Association/National Nurses Organizing Committee reports today. Nurses at Sutter Solano voted first and yesterday overwhelmingly approved the bargaining team to call a strike of up to ten days.

5,000 RNs have walked out of Sutter facilities twice already. The key reason for the walkouts is the pattern of patient safety risks caused by Sutter's refusal to schedule RNs to care for patients when nurses are on legally-mandated meal, rest, or bathroom breaks. Such scheduling gaps leave patients unattended and at risk for sentinel events.

Nurses are also concerned over Sutter's attempts to close down three hospitals in medically-underserved areas (St. Luke's Hospital in San Francisco, San Leandro Hospital, and Sutter Santa Rosa Medical Center), and to refuse to agree to fair settlements on issues of healthcare and retiree healthcare and pensions.

Despite significant movement by RNs at the bargaining table, Sutter has refused to deal seriously with any of the concerns raised by nurses, or to correct any of the patient safety risks nurses are raising. In the last strike, Sutter's response was to single out nurses for discipline who were said to have a "bad attitude" -- code words for patient advocacy. Things have not changed since.

"Sutter is not adequately staffing its units to ensure patient safety or appropriate care," said Genel Morgan, an RN at Mills-Peninsula Health Services and a board member of CNA. "This is no way to run a hospital system. Nurses are concerned over the quality of care our patients are receiving, and we will protect them."

"With $587 million in profits in just 2006, Sutter can afford to make sure its patients are guaranteed safe nursing care at all times. Instead, they are digging in their heels and looking to fight nurses tooth and nail, even to the point of sponsoring a 'witch-hunt' in my facility in an attempt to keep us quiet," said Jan Rodolfo, an RN at Alta Bates Summit Medical Center and the elected secretary of the CNA board.

"Sutter engages in 'medical redlining' by attempting to close hospitals because they have a medically-underserved patient population. The people who go to St. Luke's Hospital, Sutter Santa Rosa, and San Leandro deserve to be treated the same as patients from fancier neighborhoods," said Jane Sandoval, an RN at St. Luke's Hospital.

Patient Care Problems Key to Dispute

One key area of dispute is patient care protections. The RNs have proposed that the hospital agree to include specific 2008 RN-to-patient staffing ratios in their contract to assure compliance with the state law and to cap the number of hours that charge RNs are used for break relief, steps that would significantly improve staffing. Another equally important concern is a proposal that all patients are assigned directly to an RN.

Sutter has also rejected the nurses' proposal for a dedicated meal-and-break relief RN, which is a special concern for RNs working 12-hour shifts, as well as for trained lift teams available 24 hours a day to protect patients from falls and nurses from back injuries.

Sutter RNs are particularly incensed by the chain's attempt to cut back healthcare benefits and attempt to shift cost, premiums and fees onto the nurses, both those currently working and retirees. Sutter RNs note that other hospitals, in a very competitive market during a nursing shortage, offer much better retirement medical benefits, such as Kaiser Permanente which has major medical facilities throughout Northern California and as a result finds it easier to recruit and retain nurses.

Hospitals Affected

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

Representing some 80,000 RNs in all 50 states, the California Nurses Association/National Nurses Organizing Committee is the largest and fastest-growing association of direct-care RNs in the nation. Learn more at http://www.calnurses.org


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SOURCE California Nurses Association
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