On June 22, an SEIU Local 121 RN press release went public —after their June 15 notice to management— “Nurses issue 10-day strike notice at Riverside Community Hospital and plead for staffing and safety”. This follows staff illnesses and deaths from COVID19, hospital owner HCA’s cutback of staff and recruiting for “strike-ready nurses” (including incentives of almost staggering value — see below), and HCA shutting down the maternal-child care center at its San Jose Regional Medical Center, among other points, many of them in contention at over a dozen HCA hospitals around the US, including more in California.
[National Nurses United] filed suit to block the closure of the maternal-child care center [as a] violation of laws to protect the health and safety of the community. The closure proceeded anyway on May 30, followed by an announcement from Santa Clara County that the move may be jeopardizing the facility's Level II Trauma designation agreement.
Among leading hospital chains coming under fire for cutting employees and bonusing execs on their $15 billion-to-date shares of CARES Act bailouts (NYT, June 8), Nashville-based HCA Healthcare —formerly HCA Holdings— may be the most egregious — according to a study in May by KFF,
Hospitals that serve a greater proportion of wealthier, privately insured patients got twice as much relief as those focused on low-income patients with Medicaid or no coverage at all,
Worth $36billion, with $7billion in profits across the past 2 years, and chief exec compensation $26 million in 2019, HCA still received about $1 billion in federal pandemic funds.
Then, according to the unions, it threatened to lay off thousands of nurses, following repeated complaints that inadequate PPE supply to nurses, med techs and cleaning staff was endangering workers, co-workers including physicians, patients, and the public.
Today, healthcaredive.com reported that
...Scores of RNs at [Riverside Community Hospital] have fallen ill with COVID-19, according to a release, including deaths of an environmental services worker and a lab technician, that "have not caused RCH to improve staffing or increase PPE."
PPE shortages have been a problem at all of the 27 hospitals SEIU Local 121 RN represents, the union says. But a member survey found HCA hospitals were particularly unprepared for shortages. Only 27% of local 121 RN members at HCA hospitals reported having access to N95 respirators in their unit, significantly lower than other hospitals surveyed, according to the union….
<big><big>On May 29, HCA posted: recruitment for what used to be called “scab workers“ (bolding added for emphasis), a terrific example of standard bigbusiness strategy for strike-breaking:</big></big>
Registered Nurse (RN) - Med Surg/Psych Strike Nurses - Contract in Los Angeles, CA
Entrust Your Career to HealthTrust
Registered Nurse (RN) - Medical Surgical with Psychiatric (MedSurg) Strike Nurses - Contract
HealthTrust Workforce Solutions is partnering with speciﬁc HCA -afﬁliated hospitals to ensure the continuity and quality of patient care across each of our facilities throughout the nation.
We are seeking qualified, strike-ready nurses to help in the event of a job action against our facilities, such as a strike. We need you to come to the assistance of fellow nurses, clinical leaders and most importantly, our patients.
HealthTrust Workforce Solutions Will Provide You With/ You Will Be Provided With:
- Competitive, Top-Dollar/Tier Compensation (Up to 2X Standard Compensation)
- Guaranteed Hours
- Fully Paid Accommodations
- 100 % Paid Transportation From Your Home to the Site of The Strike in Addition to Paid Transportation From Your Local Accommodations to our Facility Each Day
- PLUS, An On-Site Nursing Advocate To Ensure Your Security And Needs Are Directly Addressed
An April national survey of nurses reported that about 92 percent doubted the federal government is doing enough to ensure there is sufficient PPE and other protections for healthcare staff, 82 percent said they and co-workers were given too little PPE to safely care for patients and avoid contracting the virus, 85 percent could not request and receive COVID-19 testing quickly and effectively if/when fearing exposure, 80 percent considered staffing levels insufficient for the anticipated surge of COVID-19 patients, 78 percent were in hospitals with paid sick time policy inadequate for staff who might become ill, and 69 percent in workplaces without clear protocols, isolation rooms and directives on how to handle suspected or confirmed COVID-19 cases.
...“I feel like nurses are sheep being led to the slaughter, and our dedication to our patients is being exploited,” said Kathy Montanino, a registered nurse for more than 12 years in the intensive care unit at Riverside Community Hospital in California, part of the for-profit HCA chain. “We’re being told to re-use disposable N95 masks and gowns that could be covered in coronavirus, making nurses into disease vectors for other patients and staff in the hospital. We also don’t have enough goggles or face shields. My husband is a respiratory therapist at my hospital, we’re raising three young boys, and we’re terrified that we could be exposing them to infection.”