Registered nurses from nearly a dozen hospitals in California walked out on the job, grabbed picket signs and held a one-day strike Wednesday to protest massive cuts to patient care and RN livelihood.
Many marched outside Sutter Health hospitals in the Bay Area where the corporation is proposing some 100 widespread reductions in patient services and RN contract standards.
As patient advocates, they can’t stand by and let a greedy corporation — that has raked in nearly $4.2 billion in profits since 2005 — create a system that can harm patients and nursing standards.
Some of the takeaways include eliminating paid sick leave, effectively forcing nurses to work when ill, and making RNs work in hospital areas where they do not have appropriate clinical expertise, again a safety risk for patients.
While Sutter shells out millions of dollars to its top 20 executives, it’s shutting down much needed patient services in communities desperate for care. For example, Sutter ended breast cancer screening for women with disabilities and most bone marrow transplant services for cancer patients at Alta Bates Summit in Oakland and Berkeley. The corporation ended psychiatric services under a contract with Sacramento County for more than 225 children.
Sutter gave a $1 million gift to the Sacramento Kings while it closed a birthing center at Sutter Auburn Faith, which has forced new mothers to travel up to a 100 miles for obstetrics care. Sutter closed the specialized pediatric care, acute rehabilitation, dialysis and skilled nursing care serves at Mills-Peninsula Medical Center in Burlingame and San Mateo.
At a rally at the Peninsula campus, Mills-Peninsula RN Sharon Tobin told the crowd that nurses are going to keep fighting Sutter, pointing out every service they cut.
“We are going to keep it up ... because this is our community and these are our patients. We will never give up on our patients’ rights,” she said.
The strike affected 4,500 RNs who work at Sutter hospitals.
A nurse outside Alta Bates Summit Medical Center in Oakland carried a sign saying, “I’ve worked for you for 33 years and this is how you say thanks?”
Another marched with a sign saying, “Over $4 billion in profits and you can’t afford my health care?”
At a rally in Oakland, RN Martha Kuhl, who also is the treasurer of the California Nurses Association, told the crowd that everyone knows Sutter isn’t poor.
“They have no economic excuse to do what they are trying to do,” she said. “They have decided to cut services to our communities. They have decided to roll back nursing standards for many years and it’s inexcusable. . . . We are a line of defense against this and don’t you forget it.”
At Petaluma Valley Hospital, nearly 100 nurses walked the picket line at the facility, which is part of Orange County-based St. Joseph Health Systems.
They protested the hospital officials’ demands for cuts that will lead to nursing practice and patient care standards.
Nurses at two other St. Joseph’s facilities — St. Mary Medical Center in Apple Valley and St. Joseph Hospital in Eureka — held pickets to show support for their colleagues.