It’s official: LA County Registered Nurses have put the Los Angeles Board of Supervisors on notice that we are willing to go on an Unfair Labor Practice strike for our patients!
Nurses and community members held a news conference Tuesday afternoon and spoke at the BOS meeting later in the evening.
“As you can imagine, a decision to authorize a strike is not one we take lightly, but for our nurses whose demands for a real investment in patient care have fallen on deaf ears – a strike is the only way they can stand up for the care and safety of their patients,” SEIU 721 President Bob Schoonover said. “It is important to understand that LA County has a chronic retention crisis – and it is this retention crisis that’s at the heart of this strike authorization – because it directly impacts patient care.”
More than 7,000 Registered Nurses are represented by SEIU 721. A work stoppage by LA County RNs would be the first in about three decades and would include the participation of nurses from major public hospitals including LAC-USC, Harbor-UCLA, Olive View Medical Center, Rancho Los Amigos as well as clinics across the county.
LA County Registered Nurses are vital to the health of the 11 million people who live in the county but the Department of Health Services is failing to keep these nurses where they are need most.
Rabbi Jonathan Klein spoke on behalf of nurses and reminded County leaders that these health care professionals are “doing God’s work in taking care of our community.”
Klien was also joined by Rev. Cue Jn-Marie and members of community groups like the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment, who turned out to show that nurses have the community’s full support.
Markeitha Harris, a Public Health Nurse for Children’s Medical Services, told the supervisors how the retention crisis is hurting kids who are forced to wait longer to be seen or have their cases assessed by nurses due to the lack of adequate staffing levels.
“Every time I can’t get to a child in a timely manner it breaks my heart,” Harris said as the supervisors looked on. “We have a severe epidemic in child deaths from diabetes and asthma and this should not be happening. By failing to retain nurses, the County is failing these children. County management must come back to the table and work with nurses to solve this retention problem.”
Nurses told supervisors of how the retention crisis has lead to longer wait times for patients, cancelled and postponed procedures and patients being moved out of Intensive Care Unit beds prematurely in order to make room. They also talked about the direct impact on nurses who are forced to miss breaks, sometimes even going more than 12-hours without a meal break or chance to use the restroom, because there are no backup nurses to relieve them.
While nurses more nurses are being hired, others are being lost almost as quickly. For example, in the last three years while LAC+USC Medical Center’s ER department hired 100 new RNs, it also lost 66 RNs in that same period. This revolving door robs patients of experienced care and saddles experienced RNs with the unsustainable burden of simultaneously being responsible for saving lives while training new staff around-the-clock.
The nurses authorized an Unfair Labor Practice strike last week with a 98% NO vote to reject LA County’s Last Best and Final Offer. The work stoppage could take place as early as 7am on Thursday, November 22nd – Thanksgiving Day.
Susan Atkinson, who has worked as an RN in the Operating Room at LAC+USC for 10 years, said every decision that’s made in that room can mean the difference between life and death and will have a lasting impact on the quality of life of patients.
“Confronting these decisions while there is a chronic retention crisis in LA County is simply exhausting and at times terrifying,” she said. “We would much rather be by our patients’ bedsides instead of out on a picket line but if that’s what we have to do for their safety, then that is what we’ll do.”