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Tuesday's Nurses Strike Won't Hamper Care, Hospital Says

Sutter Health and the California Nurses Association have been unsuccessful in ironing out their differences, so nurses plan to walk out at eight hospitals.

Nurses have planned a one-day strike at and six other Sutter Health locations for Tuesday, but the hospital said patient care would not be affected.

"... The hospital remains committed to reaching agreement on a fair contract for our nurses," Cheryl Harless, chief nursing officer, said in a Monday release. "And patients can rest assured during this strike they can continue to receive the same quality care they have come to expect from Novato Community Hospital."

The California Nurses Association notified the hospital of its intentions on Friday. Negotiations have been going for about a year. The association offered Monday to postpone the strike against eight Sutter hospitals if they withdraw what it called "sweeping concessions," according to a release on its website.

"Sutter has insisted on the draconian and unwarranted cuts despite racking up over $4 billion in profits since 2007, wealth that is reflected in salaries of over $1 million to 20 top executives," the association said in the release.

The hospital said the nurses union has not produced an economic proposal after more than 20 negotiation sessions. A final offer was presented by the hospital on Jan. 19. Sutter Health says its offer is competitive and fair.

In the release, the hospital said:

  • Nurses receive highly competitive wages including increases of up to 18 percent over the past three years and they are scheduled to receive an additional 2 percent in 2013.
  • The hospital's new EPO Plus health plan, implemented Jan. 1, allows nurses to access the same 8,500-physician network available to the PPO with no monthly premium, lower co-pays and substantially lower out-of-pocket expenses. Nurses who opt to continue with the PPO plan pay a 16 percent cost-share for full time and 21 percent for part-time
  • Up to $35,000 is paid into a retiree health care fund to help pay health premiums, out-of-pockets or pharmaceuticals when nurses retire.
  • Sutter Health continues to fund its pension plan.
  • Nurses get up to 41 paid days off each year with 10-plus year with NCH.
  • Nurses get up to 48 hours per year of paid time to help pay for education and training.

The nurses association said Sutter's final offer would "effectively force nurses to work when sick, dangerously exposing already fragile patients to infection and further complications; thousands of dollars in increased costs to nurses for health coverage for themselves and their families; forcing many nurses to work in hospital units for which they do not have clinical expertise, posing a risk to patients, and huge cuts for nurses who work part-time schedules."

About 4,500 nurses are affected by the planned walkout, scheduled to take place in Novato and at Alta Bates Summit Medical Center facilities in Berkeley and Oakland, Mills-Peninsula Health Services hospitals in Burlingame and San Mateo, Eden Medical Center in Castro Valley, San Leandro Hospital, Sutter Delta in Antioch, Sutter Solano in Vallejo and Sutter Lakeside.

Hospital spokesperson Mary Strebig called the strike “unfortunate."

"Novato Community Hospital knows that in order to take great care of patients, we need to take great care of our nurses," she said. "A nurse who chooses to work full time at NCH earns on average $120,000 and a nurse who works part-time earns on average more than $111,000."

Melodie May 01, 2012 at 06:59 PM
Who do you value more the administrators or the nurses (who do the majority of patient care)? Who do you think spends the most time with the patients? It's not the doctors. How much do you think should be paid to the person in charge of monitoring your condition and reporting changes to the doctors, often arguing with said doctors that the change in condition warrants their attention? Some of the issues from the nurses perspective are these: Sutter is proposing more than 100 reductions in patient care protections and nursing standards. They are proposing cutting the pay of new grad nurses , in some instances to rates paid in the 1980s. (ironic, since they aren't really hiring any new graduates-instead hiring out of state travellers who make the higher wages here and then return to their home states to spend them- hospitals regularly hire these travelers into regular positions and these nurses STILL live in their home states; this occurs at all hospitals, not just Sutter) Nurses are also protesting the fact that Sutter is expected to propose closing their San Leandro Hospital. All of this when Sutter has made $4 billion in profits since 2007- their CEO has gotten a 215% pay increase, making over $4.7 million/year.

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