Barton Memorial Hospital nurses call 2-day strike starting April 16

About 155 nurses at Barton Memorial Hospital in South Lake Tahoe, Calif., plan to strike for two days starting April 16, according to hospital and union statements. 

The California Nurses Association said nurses are striking because the hospital is not willing to address patient safety issues, including inadequate staffing and nurse recruitment and retention problems. Nurses contend colleagues have left because of poor working conditions, staffing issues and because compensation and benefits do not allow nurses to live in the area.

"Throughout the pandemic, nurses literally put their lives on the line working without adequate personal protective equipment, without clear protocols for how to safely provide care, and by logging hours of overtime when our community needed us most," Dorothy Dean, a registered nurse who works in the emergency room, said in an April 12 news release. "We are proud to have cared for our patients during such a difficult year. Now it is time for Barton's board of directors to show us the respect we deserve and work with us to settle a contract that allows us to provide the highest quality of care to our patients."

Barton nurses voted to unionize in 2017 and began negotiations in March 2018. Nurses went on strike in 2019. That dispute has not been resolved.

In a statement shared with Becker's Hospital Review, hospital spokesperson Mindi Befu expressed disappointment about the latest strike plans.

She said the hospital provided the union its final, comprehensive contract in February 2020, including a 17 percent average pay increase over four years, and received little response.  

Ms. Befu said Barton assigned a team at the beginning of the pandemic to get equipment for the hospital, and the hospital spent more than $4 million on COVID-related equipment and facility upgrades, including personal protective equipment to keep staff and patients safe. 

She said the team studied and followed federal, state and local guidelines. 

Ms. Befu noted that Barton has been named among Newsweek's 2021 list of World's Best Hospitals

"It is disappointing that during a pandemic where so many people stepped up to ensure staff and patient safety, that the union would make false claims to further their own agenda," said Ms. Befu.

Barton said it has hired qualified temporary staff to care for patients in case of a strike.

The strike is scheduled to begin at 7:30 a.m. April 16 and end at 7:29 a.m. April 18.


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