Workers to air concerns over alleged understaffing at California hospitals

Members of Service Employees International Union-United Healthcare Workers West will hold events this week to speak against alleged chronic understaffing at their hospitals, according to a news release shared with Becker's.

The union said short-staffed hospitals can result in long wait times, mistaken diagnosis and neglect, making it harder to provide quality care. Union members are asking hospital management to provide adequate staffing and additional support. 

"When you don't have proper staffing, we feel like we end up cutting corners on patient care," Gaby Hernandez, a lab assistant at Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center in Los Angeles, said in the release. "We are so understaffed and overworked. It's hard to give patients the quality care that they deserve."

Events are planned at the following locations:

  • Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center (April 11)
  • Kaiser Permanente-Modesto (April 11)
  • Kaiser Permanente-Walnut Creek (April 11)
  • Kaiser Permanente-Downey (April 12)
  • Kaiser Permanente-Antioch (April 12)
  • Kaiser Permanente-Baldwin Park (April 13)
  • Providence St. Joseph Medical Center (Burbank, Calif.) (April 13)
  • Kaiser Permanente-Roseville (April 13) 
  • Kaiser Permanente-San Jose (April 13)

In a statement shared with Becker's, Oakland, Calif.-based Kaiser Permanente noted that the events are not strikes or formal picketing, and said it will begin contract bargaining with SEIU-UHW and the Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions later in April. 

"We look forward to bargaining in good faith with our labor partners and discussing staffing ideas and solutions as well as other important topics with the union at the bargaining table," Kaiser said.

Kaiser also emphasized its commitment to ensuring excellent care.

"The last several years have been extraordinary for all healthcare employees," the health system said. "Our physicians, managers and staff worked side by side through some of the most difficult days of the pandemic to care for one another, our members and our communities.

"Right now, every healthcare provider in the nation is facing staffing shortages and fighting burnout, and Kaiser Permanente is not immune. Regardless of these challenges, our staffing approach reflects our shared commitment to ensure every Kaiser Permanente patient receives extraordinary care, every time and in every place."

Providence Saint Joseph Medical Center — which is part of the 11-hospital Providence Southern California system and under the umbrella of Renton, Wash.-based Providence — also emphasized its appreciation for employees, and it noted that the hospital has received the Healthgrades Patient Safety Excellence Award the past two years. 

"Providence recognized the impacts of the pandemic on our care teams, and quickly realized the need to advocate for employee and physician wellness to help them weather this unprecedented health crisis. No-cost wellness care programs continue," the hospital said in a statement shared with Becker's.

Saint Joseph also said it is prioritizing recruitment and retention and that Providence "has been aggressive in recruiting, providing bonuses and opening coveted jobs to newly graduated nurses."

Hollywood Presbyterian shared the following statement with Becker's: "CHA Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center's priority is to provide our patients safe, high-quality care and value our caregiver's voice and well-being. CHA HPMC is currently negotiating with SEIU-UHW and  will continue to work with the union in good faith until a contract is reached. We look forward to future discussions and fair negotiations with the union as we value the dedication and hard work of all CHA HPMC employees, including SEIU-UHW members."

SEIU-UHW represents about 13,500 workers at the facilities above that are involved in the events this week.

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