California nurses at 2 health systems begin 5-day strikes

Citing patient safety concerns amid the COVID-19 pandemic, nurses at Oakland, Calif.-based Alameda Health System and in San Joaquin County's health system will strike for five days beginning Oct. 7, according to the unions that represent them.

Strikes are scheduled at San Leandro (Calif.) Hospital, Alameda (Calif.) Hospital and Highland Hospital in Oakland. Nurses at San Joaquin General Hospital in French Camp, Calif., in public health, the county jails, and county clinics are also slated to walk off the job.

The California Nurses Association, which represents nearly 800 nurses in San Joaquin County's health system, said management "has demonstrated an overwhelming disrespect for nurses"; is understaffing critical-care units; and is not providing sufficient personal protective equipment for nurses during the pandemic. The union also contends that the San Joaquin board of supervisors has failed to offer support to the nurses or the community.

The California Nurses Association, which represents 325 nurses at Alameda and San Leandro hospitals, and SEIU Local 1021, which represents nurses at Highland Hospital and other Alameda Health System workers, made similar accusations.

Union members say they have concerns about understaffing as well as health and safety issues for patients and workers. They also allege bad faith bargaining and unfair labor practices.

Alameda Health System, a safety-net public health system, expressed disappointment about the unions' plan to strike, particularly during the pandemic, in a statement shared with Becker's last month.

The health system said it will try to keep as many of its hospitals, skilled nursing facilities and wellness centers open as possible during the walkout.

San Joaquin General CEO David Culberson echoed Alameda Health System, telling The Record a strike during the pandemic is disappointing and that the hospital's wage increase proposals for workers reflect the reality of being a small county hospital serving Medicare and Medicaid patients.

In a statement cited by the publication, San Joaquin County said it has contracted 189 California-licensed nurses to temporarily replace striking ones.

Mr. Culberson told The Record essential hospital departments will remain open, and the hospital is rescheduling elective, nonemergency surgeries.

 

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