Pa­tient’s death at fore­front of clash

CHA ac­cuses nurses union of ex­ploit­ing tragedy ‘to fur­ther their agenda’

Modern Healthcare - - REGIONAL NEWS - Ashok Selvam

The Cal­i­for­nia Hos­pi­tal As­so­ci­a­tion blasted the Cal­i­for­nia Nurses As­so­ci­a­tion for in­vok­ing the death of a pa­tient un­der the care of a re­place­ment nurse in its bar­gain­ing rhetoric. “It is in­ap­pro­pri­ate and ir­re­spon­si­ble for the Cal­i­for­nia Nurses As­so­ci­a­tion la­bor union to ex­ploit this tragedy to fur­ther their union agenda,” CHA Pres­i­dent and CEO C. Duane Dauner said in a state­ment is­sued Sept. 25, the day af­ter a pa­tient died while at 408-bed Alta Bates Sum­mit Med­i­cal Cen­ter in Oak­land.

CNA nurses at the hos­pi­tal were on strike Sept. 23 and weren’t al­lowed to re­turn im­me­di­ately be­cause they were forced to honor five-day con­tracts for re­place­ment nurses, ac­cord­ing to the hos­pi­tal’s par­ent, Sacra­mento, Calif.-based Sut­ter Health. Nurses across Cal­i­for­nia that week left their jobs as part of three days of strikes, in­clud­ing the one-day strike at Sut­ter hos­pi­tals.

“We have met and spo­ken with the fam­ily of the pa­tient to ex­press our sor­row and sym­pa­thy and let them know our prayers are with them,” Carol Weis, the chief nurs­ing ex­ec­u­tive at the med­i­cal cen­ter’s Sum­mit cam­pus, said in a writ­ten state­ment. The state­ment ac­knowl­edged that a nurse’s er­ror caused the death but did not con­firm that the nurse was a re­place­ment for locked-out work­ers. Oak- land po­lice said the death was ap­par­ently caused by a non­pre­scribed dosage of a drug, ac­cord­ing to pub­lished re­ports.

The union or­ga­nized a can­dle­light vigil af­ter is­su­ing a state­ment early Sept. 25, trig­ger­ing wide­spread me­dia cov­er­age of the death. The union said some nurses were barred from their posts by armed se­cu­rity guards.

“This dis­grace­ful and un­safe lock­out is the lat­est in­di­ca­tion of Sut­ter’s dis­re­gard for its pa­tients and nurses, which is also seen in its dras­tic cuts in pa­tient ser­vices across the re­gion and the nearly 200 de­mands Sut­ter has made for sweep­ing re­duc­tions in nurses and pa­tient-care stan­dards,” National Nurses United Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor RoseAnn De­Moro said in the state­ment. The CNA is an NNU af­fil­i­ate.

Dauner, of the Sacra­mento, Calif.-based hos­pi­tal as­so­ci­a­tion, re­sponded that hos­pi­tals had lit­tle choice than to hire re­place­ment nurses. He also de­fended the skills of those tem­po­rary work­ers. “If the union be­lieves the use of li­censed re­place­ment nurses is a threat to pub­lic safety, then why have they cho­sen to pur­sue a pat­tern of wag­ing strikes on a rou­tine ba­sis?” he said in the state­ment.

The union is protest­ing con­tract con­ces­sions at Sut­ter, in­clud­ing the elim­i­na­tion of paid sick leave, which they say is a threat to pa­tient safety. Sut­ter of­fi­cials said they are of­fer­ing nurses 40 paid days off a year and an av­er­age reg­is­tered nurse’s an­nual salary of $136,000.

About 5,000 Sut­ter nurses in 21 hos­pi­tals were in­volved in the strike, ac­cord­ing to CNA spokesman Chuck Idel­son. Idel­son said the union’s re­sponse to the death would be no dif­fer­ent if it had hap­pened on the day of the strike rather than dur­ing the lock­out, rea­son­ing that the hos­pi­tal had weeks to pre­pare and that the union also had nurses on call in case they were needed. “It’s their re­spon­si­bil­ity to as­sure the safety of their pa­tients.”

Nurses hold a can­dle­light vigil out­side Alta Bates Sum­mit Med­i­cal Cen­ter in Oak­land af­ter the death of a pa­tient.

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