Workers at 5 California HCA facilities authorize strike

Members of Service Employees International Union-United Healthcare Workers West have voted to authorize a five-day strike beginning May 22 at five HCA Healthcare facilities in California.

The union represents about 3,000 workers at HCA's Good Samaritan Hospital and its Regional Medical Center in San Jose; Los Robles Medical Center in Thousand Oaks; West Hills Hospital; and Riverside Community Hospital, according to a news release from SEIU. Nashville, Tenn.-based HCA's website states that it operates 182 hospitals and more than 2,300 care sites in 20 states and the United Kingdom.

Ninety-seven percent of voting union members voted in favor of authorizing a strike, according to the SEIU-UHW release. The vote applies to various job classes, including emergency room technicians, nursing assistants, respiratory therapists, lab techs, dieticians, environmental services, pharmacy techs, cooks, food service workers, transporters and others.

"We are prepared to strike because HCA cannot keep bargaining in bad faith and denying what we experience every day at our hospitals," Xochitl Gonzalez, a patient care technician at Los Robles Medical Center, said in the union release. "I have never seen working conditions or patient care suffer more. But executives counting shares don't see that — they never have to look our patients in the face like we do."

The union also references a recent survey by SEIU-UHW of healthcare workers at HCA, which found that more than 86 percent of caregivers reported consistently being somewhat or severely understaffed, 78 percent reported having insufficient time for proper patient care, and 70 percent reported delays or denials of patient care due to staffing levels.

HCA Far West Division Communications Manager Antonio Castelan called the union's strike authorization vote "reckless and unnecessary, and not in the interest of patients."

He said in a statement shared with Becker's: "This decision by SEIU-UHW leadership is startling and entirely at odds with the progress we have made at the bargaining table, where we reached agreement on many contract issues.

"A strike benefits no one and may prevent our communities from having access to timely medical care."

A vote to authorize a strike does not mean a strike will occur. A strike could still be averted if an agreement is reached.

"The hospital leadership teams are working day and night to prepare in advance of the planned strikes. Should SEIU-UHW continue down this misguided path, we will do our best to continue being a valuable healthcare resource to our communities," Mr. Castelan's statement says.

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