Negotiating to protect patients and provide quality nurses
Registered nurses (RNs) at Good Samaritan Hospital and Regional Medical Center picketed and rallied outside Good Samaritan Hospital to call public attention to their efforts to stand up for their patients and for the future of their hospitals.
“This is our hospital and we really care,” said Malinda Markowitz, nurse of more than 30 years and co-president of California Nurses Association (CNA). “We want it to do well, and in order for it to do well, it has to have benefits that are rewarding the nurses and protecting the patients.”
The collective bargaining agreement for the 1,500 RNs, represented by the CNA and National Nurses United, expired on June 30th and has been extended several times.
“Eliminating longstanding healthcare and pension benefits will have a direct impact on the quality of our hospital and our ability to recruit new RNs,” said Dorothy Higgins, a critical care unit RN at Regional Medical Center of San Jose for more than 30 years. “It doesn’t really affect my work ethic because regardless, with or without the pension, I’m going to do a good job because that’s what I’m here for.”
The RNs of Good Samaritan and Regional Medical Center, affiliates of the for-profit Hospital Corporation of America have been in bargaining of a new contract since May. The current contract is set to expire September 30th.
“Many of these provisions that we have in our contract, we’ve had for over 45 years and we had to fight for them and we have them for a reason,” said Makowitz.
The nurses are interested in keeping their pension benefits. In addition, they are asking for safe RN-to-patient staffing ratios. They would like the hospital to provide adequate staff to take care of the patients that are already there and to those being admitted
They are also asking for designated charge nurse on every unit, free of patient care assignment, to allow full coordination of patient needs.
As explained by Markowitz, charge nurses are like the air controllers at the airport. They coordinate everything that is going on in a unit, making sure that the patients have what they need including a nurse. But the hospital is having the charge nurse do multiple things, being at different units, and causing further problems.
Nurses claim that once a unit has a few extra nurses, they are sent to another unit, including charge nurses. Nurses are then not being relieved for breaks or lunches.
“Many nurses are super tired. They come to work. They don’t have breaks, lunch or dinner. It’s not good for the patients,” said Erly Diaz-Melendez, part time pediatric nurse at Good Samaritan for eight years.
Lastly, they are asking for trained lift teams. They want to be able to safely move and transport patients without harm or injury to the nurses.