Stanford nurses to strike

About 5,000 nurses at Stanford and Lucile Packard Children's hospitals in Palo Alto, Calif., who are members of the Committee for Recognition of Nursing Achievement, will go on strike April 25, according to the union.

Union representatives said nurses will call on hospital administrators to listen to their contract proposals to ensure sustainability of nurses as well as excellent patient care.

"As one of the nation’s top healthcare systems, Stanford and Packard have an opportunity to demonstrate leadership and work with nurses to solve the burnout and exhaustion that is driving many of us to reconsider our jobs and our profession. We've been disappointed by hospital administrators' consistent refusal to acknowledge the reality of understaffing: constant requests for overtime, little time for rest with our families and insufficient support for our mental health," Colleen Borges, president of CRONA and a pediatric oncology nurse at Packard Children's Hospital, said in an April 24 news release. "A strike has always been the last resort for CRONA nurses, but we are prepared to stand strong and make sacrifices today for the transformative changes that the nursing profession needs. We hope to get back to work quickly under fair contracts that acknowledge nurses' contributions and support excellent patient care."

Nurses at Stanford and Lucile Packard Children's hospitals authorized the union to call a strike on April 8 and officially issued a strike notice to hospitals on April 13. Nurses' contracts expired March 31.

Amid the strike news, Stanford Health Care and Lucile Packard Children's Hospital administrators notified union leaders that its nurse members who strike later in April risk losing pay and health benefits.

Dale Beatty, DNP, RN, chief nurse executive and vice president of patient care services for Stanford Health Care, and Jesus Cepero, PhD, RN, senior vice president of patient care and chief nursing officer for Stanford Children's Health, said in a statement earlier this month that nurses who choose to strike will not be paid for shifts they miss.

"In addition, employer-paid health benefits will cease on May 1 for nurses who go out on strike and remain out through the end of the month in which the strike begins," Drs. Beatty and Cepero said.

In a statement shared with Becker's April 24, Drs. Beatty and Cepero emphasized that striking nurses may pay to continue their health coverage through the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act.

"Our hospitals' employer-paid premiums for health benefits are only provided to employees who are actively engaged in working for the hospitals," their statement said. "This standard practice is not unique to our hospitals and applies to any of our employees who are not working, are on unpaid status, and are not on an approved leave."

Meanwhile, the union organized a petition to tell Stanford not to cut off medical benefits for nurses and their families during the strike. As of April 25, the petition had more than 29,656 signatures. It was delivered to hospital leaders on April 22.

"Hospital executives are trying to use our health benefits as a weapon to break our resolve and prevent the strike," the petition said. "This decision is cruel and immoral. Health benefits should not be used against workers, and especially against the very healthcare professionals who have made Stanford a world-class health system."

Drs. Beatty and Cepero said both hospitals will remain open during the strike, and they have brought in replacement nurses to work alongside other employees. As a result of the strike, volume of services in some areas will be reduced and elective procedures will need to be rescheduled "when care teams determine it is appropriate to do so," they said.

Drs. Beatty and Cepero also said hospital leaders have made extensive efforts to reach a mutually acceptable contract agreement during negotiations and "will continue to work toward an agreement with CRONA on a contract that our nurses can support and be proud of."  

"We have worked diligently to reach a mutually acceptable contract agreement and have made meaningful progress at the bargaining table so far," they said. "We've offered an enriched comprehensive proposal that features only enhancements for our nurses, including wage increases that will keep our nurses among the highest paid nurses in the nation, greater retention bonuses in the first year, funds to help repay loans incurred while seeking a nursing degree, increased access to paid time off for new nurses, and a new program for retention-incentive payments for our nurses working in units with higher vacancy rates and hard-to-fill positions. We want to reach agreement with CRONA, and we believe we demonstrated that with our latest offer." 

The union has not announced a strike end date and is scheduled to be back at the bargaining table April 26.

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