California nurses to strike Sept. 20

Registered nurses at Barton Memorial Hospital in South Lake Tahoe, Calif., plan to walk off the job Sept. 20, alleging that hospital management has refused to bargain in good faith about employee medical debt and healthcare coverage, the union that represents them announced.

The California Nurses Association said Sept. 14 that nurses presented a proposal to hospital management 14 months ago. They say that proposal included eliminating employee medical debt for care they or someone in their family received as well as boosting healthcare coverage, but that hospital management did not offer a counterproposal.

"It is important that we have some clarity on what Barton is proposing in order to recruit and retain experienced nurses," said Kelli Teteak, a registered nurse in the intensive care unit. "Nurses who work together for many years are able to provide the highest quality of care. Experienced nurses have an important role in providing training and mentorship to newer nurses. However, due to Barton's short staffing and inadequate benefits, nurses leave at an alarming rate."

Barton officials countered said the the hospital offers a competitive healthcare benefits package to employees with a choice of three options, and the most popular plan costs $20 to $60 per pay period for medical/vision healthcare coverage depending on family size.

As far as medical debt,  hospital officials said that Barton patients, including employees, have several options to pay their medical bills. Financial assistance is available for eligible patients, officials said.

"We are disappointed that the California nurses' union has served Barton Health with a notice of their intent to strike," the officials said. "We are in active negotiations with the union and had two additional sessions scheduled for Sept. 24 and 25. We were anticipating continued discussions at the negotiating sessions scheduled at the end of the month."

"On Aug. 27, Barton presented a fair and thoughtful counterproposal to the union's wage proposal, which would result in an average 10 percent wage increase for bargaining unit nurses over three years. We plan to share a healthcare proposal with the union in October, as we have clearly communicated to the union," they added.

Hospital officials said patient care will continue during the strike with qualified temporary replacement nurses who will work with Barton staff and physicians. 

The strike is scheduled to begin at 7:30 a.m. Sept. 20 and end at 7:29 a.m. Sept. 21. 


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