California nurses at HCA-owned hospital issue strike notice

Citing staffing and safety concerns, registered nurses at Riverside (Calif.) Community Hospital have issued a strike notice, according to the union that represents them. 

SEIU Local 121RN said nurses issued the strike notice June 15 over patient and nurse safety issues linked to staffing levels. The union contends the hospital expects fewer nurses to take care of more patients, is not providing sufficient personal protective equipment, and is not providing sufficient breaks to relieve exhausted nurses.  

"Last year, even before the COVID-19 pandemic struck, nurses successfully urged the hospital to increase staffing and end many of its unsafe practices, which resulted in an improved staffing agreement. Recently, the hospital ended that agreement," a union news release states. 

"Instead of taking extra precautions during this pandemic, the hospital continues to cut corners and take risks with nurses' and patients' lives," SEIU said.

Riverside Community Hospital is part of HCA Healthcare, a Nashville, Tenn.-based for-profit hospital operator. Nurses at the hospital said they plan to strike from June 26 through July 6. Contract negotiations begin on July 7.

In a statement provided to Becker's Hospital Review, the hospital said it has not laid off or furloughed employees due to the pandemic, as many other organizations have done, and it instituted a pandemic pay program giving many workers 70 percent wage replacement for regular hours not worked.  

Riverside Community Hospital said it also has hired 691 employees, including 307 nurses, since March 2019; added a dedicated vascular access team, a code team, ancillary support staff and increased staffing in the emergency room; and deployed more than $18 million in capital equipment to improve hospital operations.  

Amid this backdrop, the hospital called the planned strike "unfortunate — especially for any nurses who choose to go out on strike and lose multiple shifts worth of wages."

"During this unparalleled health crisis, our hope was that the union would not resort to these tactics, but we have plans in place to ensure the appropriate staffing of our sites of care in the event of any type of incident, from natural disaster to labor strike," the hospital said.

Jackie D. Van Blaricum, CEO of Riverside Community Hospital, added: "Now more than ever is the time to support hospitals in the face of this great adversity; it is not the time to create conflict and spread misinformation. At this time we feel that the motivation behind SEIU, 121RN's strike has very little to do with their members and more to do with their contract negotiations. It's disappointing, however, we will continue to remain a steadfast resource for our community and will not allow this to derail our progress in our mission of providing care above all else."


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