LOS ANGELES - Registered nurses at University of California medical centers on Wednesday blasted university administration for attacking the right of nurses to strike to correct on-going staffing problems at UC by obtaining a court restraining order barring a walkout planned for Thursday, and said they will continue to take whatever steps necessary to resolve alleged staffing problems at the hospitals.The nurses, who are represented by the California Nurses Association, were scheduled to hold rallies at UC medical centers Thursday to press their on-going case for safe staffing. Nurses at two other Southern California hospitals, Citrus Valley Medical Center in Covina and Little Company of Mary Medical Center in San Pedro, were also set to rally Thursday "Our number-one priority remains correcting the chronic staffing issues at University of California medical centers, which we have been unable to resolve through any other means," said Beth Kean, chief negotiator for CNA's UC Division. "All the resources the University has wasted trying to silence the nurses will do nothing to solve the staffing crisis at UC hospitals, and nurses will not rest until their concerns are addressed." A San Francisco Superior Court judge issued the temporary restraining order Tuesday, acting on a request from the University of California as well as the state Public Employment Relations Board (PERB), which oversees collective bargaining for public employees. The nurses will return to court June 18 for a hearing on the whether or not nurses have a right to strike for better staffing in this circumstance. "We have withdrawn our strike notice for June 10 in accord with the court's order, and we are not striking on June 10," said Kean. "We look forward to the court hearing next Friday where we are confident the judge will rule that UC nurses do have the right to strike over UC's rejection of the fact-finder's recommendation which include the unresolved staffing issues at the UC medical centers." "UC's attempts to silence their nurses in speaking out for safe patient care is part of a national trend in the hospital industry as evidenced by the recent Temple University Medical Center strike and tomorrow's Minnesota Twin Cities nurses' strike," said Geri Jenkins, RN, and co-president of CNA/NNU. "Registered nurses are being forced to take the ultimate step to strike on behalf of our patients. It is our duty and legal obligation as registered nurses to ensure that our patients have safe care in our hospitals." Kean characterized the intervention by PERB as an ideologically-motivated move by a board whose members are appointed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who has long sought to overturn safe staffing regulations in the state's hospitals. "Far from being an impartial mediator in this dispute, PERB is seeking to undermine public employees' right to strike, while allowing the University to impose staffing conditions on nurses that violate their professional duty to protect patients," Kean said. UC RNs called the strike as a last resort following the refusal of UC hospital officials to improve staffing conditions at its high-profile hospitals, despite months of contract talks, a fact-finding process and multiple efforts by nurses in the facilities. Most recently, nurses met with the UCSF chief nurse executive to address an agreement UCSF signed Oct. 2 to improve staffing and assure a dedicated break relief program so that nurses can take needed breaks without jeopardizing patients in their medical, post-surgical, and step-down (intermediate care) units, which UC has refused to implement. The parties scheduled a hearing with an arbitrator June 3 and 4, which UC subsequently canceled. "We have to speak out for the safety of our patients, and the University continues to deny that there is any problem," said Maureen Dugan, RN, a medical-surgical nurse at UC San Francisco. At UC Davis, for example as recently as the May 29, 2010 dayshift, the UCD staffing office announced there were no nurses to send to a department requesting an additional nurse because they were already down 20 nurses on that shift hospital-wide. Internal staffing documentation from UCD from last year revealed that one-third of the shifts were short one or more RNs in each unit than what was required by UCD's own standards to meet the individual patient acuities on those shifts. Contributed by the California Nurses Association and National Nurses United.
********** Published: June 11, 2010 - Volume 9 - Issue 8