Registered nurses employed by UCLA will rally Tuesday to demand that medical workers be informed when they’ve been exposed to COVID-19 and be properly tested — the way UCLA athletes are tested.
At the same time, nurses working at UC Irvine Medical Center in Orange will hold a rally to alert the public to what they consider insufficient staffing at the facility.
Elsewhere in the Southland, workers at seven Kaiser Permanente facilities will protest the management’s apparently experimental use of robots in housekeeping, fearing they will lose good jobs to machines. Kaiser has denied having any plans to displace workers.
The anti-UCLA rallies will both start at 11 a.m. In the Los Angeles area, nurses will rally outside the Michigan Operation Center, a training facility at 2211 Michigan Ave. in Santa Monica. The rally in Orange will take place outside 101 The City Drive.
The California Nurses Association/National Nurses United, the union that represents the protesters, including 4,000 UCLA nurses, said in a statement that the action in Santa Monica will take place “to demand that hospital administration notify frontline workers when they have been exposed to COVID-19 and to guarantee timely access to COVID testing for all nurses and health care professionals.”
“It is appalling that nurses and other health care workers are not being notified when they have been exposed to COVID-19,” said emergency room nurse Marcia Santini. “Since the start of this pandemic, there has been minimal notification of health care workers, and we have seen nurses refused testing after possible exposure.
“Yet, we see that UCLA has implemented an aggressive testing program for athletes, including the daily rapid testing for the football team. As nurses, we are calling on UCLA to allow us to use our own clinical judgment to determine if and when we should be tested, in order to better protect the health and safety of our patients and communities.”
The rally in Orange will serve to “raise alarm about short staffing, lack of equipment and emergency department crowding,” the union said in a statement.
“We are very concerned that as we head into the winter and the possibility of a winter surge in COVID-19 cases, we may not be fully prepared to safely care for our patients,” said UCI emergency room nurse Maureen Berry, the hospital’s chief nurse representative for her union.
“UCI is the only Level 1 trauma center in Orange county as well as a cardiac center, stroke center, burn center and nationally recognized cancer center. Patients come to us with life-threatening injuries and illness, yet we are often working without enough nurses in our emergency department. The lack of adequate staffing in our emergency department may lead to long wait times and possible treatment delays.
“We want to provide the best care in a timely and professional manner to our patients and our community. We cannot do that if we are understaffed on a regular basis.”
Berry added that “We recruit and train many nurses, including new graduates, who come to work here for a year or two, but they leave for more competitive pay and better working conditions. We owe it to the community create a hospital environment that attracts and retains experienced nurses who will stay at the hospital for years providing the highest quality of care to our patients.”
The Kaiser workers will assemble from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. outside seven facilities in L.A and Orange County “to protest Kaiser Permanente’s attempt to replace workers with robots in a reckless plan that threatens families and puts patients and staff at risk from COVID-19,” said their union, the 97,000-member SEIU-United Healthcare Workers West.
“We see these robot vacuums and of course we worry about our jobs and our families,” said Brenda Martina Castaneda, an environmental Services worker at Kaiser Woodland Hills.
Added her Woodland Hills colleague, Juan Juregui: “Robots cannot ensure a sterile environment the way trained EVS professionals can. In the age of COVID-19, Kaiser’s robot experiment is reckless and needs to be stopped immediately.”
Kaiser has denied that it is planning to fire workers and replace them with robots, saying the vacuums were tested as part of a pilot program.
“Kaiser Permanente empowers its teams with state-of-the-art tools and technologies to support our mission of providing high-quality, affordable health care to our patients,” according to a Kaiser statement issued last month during a similar worker protest. “As part of that commitment, we launched a 90-day pilot to evaluate whether autonomous vacuum sweeper technology can help keep our medical facilities cleaner, reduce the spread of infectious diseases and provide a safer environment for our patients and staff. We are committed to working in partnership with our SEIU-UHW labor partners to evaluate the results of this pilot program.”
The Kaiser protests will take place outside the following facilities:
– Kaiser Panorama City Medical Center, 13651 Willard St., Panorama City;
– Kaiser LAMC Hospital, 4867 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles;
– Kaiser Permanente Orange County – Anaheim Medical Center, 3460 E. La Palma, Anaheim;
– Kaiser Permanente Downey Medical Center, 9333 Imperial Highway, Downey;
– Kaiser South Bay – Kaiser Permanente Carson Medical Offices, 18600 S. Figueroa St., Gardena;
– Kaiser Permanente West Los Angeles Medical Center, 6041 Cadillac Ave., Los Angeles.
– Kaiser Permanente Baldwin Park Medical Center, 1011 Baldwin Park Blvd., Baldwin Park.
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