2,400 HCA nurses start 5-day strike in California

More than 2,400 nurses at three HCA Healthcare hospitals in Southern California are set to launch a five-day strike Nov. 22 in the sixth month of contract negotiations. 

The striking nurses and other medical professionals are employed by HCA's Riverside (Calif.) Community Hospital, West Hills (Calif.) Hospital, and Los Robles Regional Medical Center in Thousand Oaks. Workers are represented by SEIU 121RN, which has been in contract negotiations with Nashville, Tenn.-based HCA since May. 

Workplace violence, compliance with California's minimum nurse-to-patient ratio law and outsourcing of emergency call systems are concerns the union says nurses have repeatedly raised to HCA, but the system has "failed to engage with them in a meaningful way."

HCA's use of technology makes up one more component of striking workers' dissatisfaction. 

"In many units, patient sitters — who carefully monitor patients and intervene to prevent falls and other injuries — are replaced by off-site virtual sitters, who watch patients on a video monitor and can only give verbal instructions, often to patients who are confused or facing pain and crisis," SEIU 121RN said in a Nov. 22 news release. "Nurses say that this system is woefully inadequate to help patients who can inadvertently, or intentionally harm themselves." 

Carmella Gutierrez, spokesperson for HCA Healthcare Far West Division, shared the following statement with Becker's Nov. 22: 

"We are disappointed by SEIU 121RN leadership's decision to strike as it is absolutely unnecessary, given the serious efforts we have invested in bargaining since May. It's evident the labor union has not taken these sessions seriously and has intended to strike all along, despite our genuine attempts at finding common ground.

"Our hospitals have taken proactive measures to provide high-quality healthcare for our patients and our communities throughout a strike. We are drawing on the resources of our nationwide HCA Healthcare system to ensure each hospital is fully operational. Our doors will remain open throughout any labor union activities and, importantly, there will be no closure of any services at this time.

"We are here to care for our patients with the same dedication and excellence as always."

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