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Nurses Send Sutter a Clear Message

RNs at 10 Northern Calif. hospitals vote to authorize strike for patient


OAKLAND, Calif., Aug. 31 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Registered nurses at all 10 Northern California Sutter Health hospitals currently in bargaining have voted overwhelmingly to authorize a strike if an agreement with the hospital chain is not reached, the California Nurses Association/National Nurses Organizing Committee announced today. There has been no progress in bargaining over the core issues of the contract, which includes important patient safety concerns, adequate RN staffing, and protection for nurse healthcare coverage.

RNs at Mills-Peninsula Health Services in Burlingame and San Mateo, San Leandro Hospital and Eden Medical Center in Castro Valley all voted Wednesday and Thursday to join their colleagues at Sutter Delta in Antioch, Sutter Solano in Vallejo, California Pacific Medical Center and St. Luke's hospitals in San Francisco, Alta Bates Summit Medical Center in Berkeley and Oakland, Sutter Santa Rosa, Sutter Marin General Hospital and Sutter Novato Hospital in authorizing a strike.

The votes throughout the system come as a result of proposals that are inferior to Northern California standards in patient care protections and sweeping reductions in healthcare coverage for the RNs. CNA/NNOC represents over 5,000 RNs in 14 Northern California Sutter hospitals.

"In negotiations, Sutter denies that inadequate staffing is an issue at their facilities, but in these votes nurses have spoken loud and clear," said Jan Rodolfo, an RN who works in the cancer unit at Summit, and is a member of the CNA nurse negotiating team. "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 nurses at 10 Sutter hospitals believe that if conditions don't improve, a strike may be the only answer," said Eileen Prendiville, an RN who works in the neonatal intensive care unit at CPMC and is on the CNA nurse negotiating team.

"Sutter must address the issues most important to nurses such as getting adequate rest in the midst of a 12-hour shift, which is a question of patient safety. Our Professional Practice Committees have been 'talking' to management about this issue for several years without resolve -- enough talk."

A major area of dispute is patient care protections, which the nurses aim to significantly strengthen. The RNs have proposed including specific 2008 RN-to-patient staffing ratios in their contract to assure compliance with the state law. Sutter has refused, as they have refused to agree to capping the number of hours that charge RNs are used for break relief, a dedicated meal and break relief nurse (especially important given 12-hour shifts), or a proposal that all patients are assigned directly to a registered nurse.

Sutter has also rejected the nurses' proposal for trained lift teams available 24 hours to protect patients from falls and nurses from back injuries.

Major differences also remain on critical issues such as healthcare for nurses and retirees. Establishing strong healthcare and retirement protections is a significant retention and recruitment issue, say Sutter RNs. They note that other hospitals such as those in the Kaiser chain, in a very competitive market during a nursing shortage, offer much better healthcare and retirement medical benefits.

Representing some 75,000 RNs in 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

SOURCE California Nurses Association
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