Saint John's Health Center in Santa Monica. Photo by John Schreiber.
Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica. Photo by John Schreiber.
Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica. Photo by John Schreiber.

More than 5,000 nurses began two days of strikes Thursday at three L.A-area hospitals and five in Northern California to press for higher staffing levels and what two unions call safer conditions for patients, but one of the strike targets said the job action is a union recruitment tactic unconnected to patient care.

“Management demands for cuts in health coverage for RNs and their families are also a major focus for nurses … especially RNs who work for the Sutter Health chain,” according to the California Nurses Association and National Nurses United.

The nurses “are calling on hospitals to stop endangering patients by implementing safe staffing levels and taking steps to retain experienced RNs. They are also demanding policies that give RNs a stronger voice in patient care delivery,” according to the union statement.

In Los Angeles County, a two-day strike was scheduled today and Friday at Kaiser Permanente’s Los Angeles Medical Center on Sunset Boulevard and for one day on Friday at Providence’s Torrance hospital and Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica. About 500 people were picketing today outside Los Angeles Medical Center, according to a representative for the nurses.

Kaiser officials said “a significant number” of nurses at the hospital ignored the call to strike and went to work. They also said that while some LAMC nurses were walking the picket line, “there are estimates that up (to) two-thirds of those demonstrating are not associated with Los Angeles Medical Center.”

Kaiser officials said the walkout is an organizing tactic by the California Nurses Association, which does not represent nurses at Los Angeles Medical Center but is one of three unions vying to.

“It is unfortunate that one of the organizing tactics chosen by this union is to call on nurses to walk away from their patients,” according to Kaiser. “We believe it is entirely inappropriate to attempt to disrupt patient care or service as part of a union-organizing effort.”

Kaiser said the strike “is not about quality or adequate staffing.”

“The quality of care our teams provide at LAMC has never been higher,” according to Kaiser. “In fact, just this week, the Los Angeles Medical Center and all Kaiser Permanente hospitals in Southern California received an ‘A’ grade from the Leapfrog Group, an independent advocacy group of public and private purchasers of employee health coverage.”

“… This strike is unnecessary and counterproductive,” Kaiser said. “We have asked our nurses to reject the union’s call to walk off the job. It is critical that we work collaboratively, together so that we can continue to provide high-quality care for our patients.”

Pickets were also scheduled today at five hospitals in Northern California — in Auburn, Burlingame, Roseville, Santa Rosa and Tracy.

Union officials said more picketing was planned on Friday at the Kaiser hospital at 4867 Sunset Blvd. On Friday, picketing is also planned at 8 a.m. at Providence Little Company of Mary Medical Center Torrance at 4101 Torrance Blvd. and at Providence Saint John’s Health Center at 2121 Santa Monica Blvd.

Providence officials said they have contingency plans in place to ensure there would not be any disruptions in patient care.

“While the union claims the strike was called to improve patient safety, the truth is both of these hospitals have received national awards recently for quality and safety,” according to a statement from Providence. “In fact, there are CNA hospitals in our area that are not as highly rated as our hospitals and the Kaiser hospitals that face strikes. Why aren’t they picketing those hospitals?

“This strike was called in the midst of our good-faith negotiations. We were discussing various points and were nowhere near impasse. Providence believes it is offering competitive salaries and benefits packages. Providence respects the rights of its employees to strike, but urges respect and constructive discussion rather than intimidation and misinformation.”

—City News Service

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