California workers at 3 HCA hospitals call strike

Registered nurses and licensed medical professionals at three HCA Healthcare hospitals in California plan to strike from Christmas Eve through Jan. 3, according to the union that represents them. 

SEIU Local 121RN — which represents about 2,500 RNs and licensed medical professionals at Los Robles Regional Medical Center in Thousand Oaks, West Hills Hospital and Medical Center in Los Angeles and Riverside Community Hospital — said union members gave the hospitals a 10-day notice Dec. 14 to allow ample time to bring in temporary replacement staff. A strike can still be averted if an agreement is reached.  

"Safety, staffing and workload issues impacting safety are the employees' major concerns," the union said  in a news release. "Management's proposals in negotiations have not shown a clear path to making the workplace safe for staff and patients."

The 10-day notice comes days after union members voted to authorize their bargaining team to call a strike. At the time of that vote, SEIU Local 121RN said nurses and other healthcare staff had reported aggressive rationing of personal protective equipment, as well as used, dirty PPE and staff falling ill, the union said in a news release. Other concerns reported by the union include insufficient COVID-19 testing of patients and workers, inadequate nurse-to-patient ratios, and dangerous co-mingling of patients and workers.

In a statement shared with Becker's Dec. 14, HCA Far West Division Communications Manager Antonio Castelan expressed disappointment about the 10-day strike notice, especially during this time in the pandemic. 

He also said hospital management has bargained in good faith during negotiations with the goal of securing a fair agreement, and he disputed claims that hospitals have not prioritized the safety of workers.

"Since day one, our top priority has been to protect them — to keep them safe and keep them employed — so they can best care for our patients," said Mr. Castelan. "Any suggestion otherwise ignores the extensive work, planning and training we have done to ensure the delivery of high-quality care during this pandemic. Our front-line caregivers have shown unwavering commitment and tremendous sacrifice, and our safety efforts have included testing of colleagues, universal masking, screening procedures for all who enter, tighter visitor policies and other safeguards, in line with California law and guidance from the CDC."

Other efforts cited in HCA's statement include enacting team nursing models, offering nurse bonuses and shift pay and working to attract more nurses. 

More negotiations are scheduled this week.


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