St. Joseph Hospital nurses picket to call attention to staffing issues

EUREKA, CA. – Nurses with Saint Joseph Health Humboldt County were picketing Thursday over concerns with understaffing.

That afternoon, registered nurses stood outside the facility to call attention to what they call ‘chronic understaffing’ at Saint Joseph Hospital. The hospital could do with a staffing agency to help fill some of the blatant vacancies, though it appears that the powers that be are not providing proper care and support to their staff. One of the biggest expenses for any business is staffing but before making cuts it’s important that they look into potential financial solutions like recruitment finance.

Specifically, they are asking for what they call “safe patient ratios,” because union nurses believe that current staffing levels are not only having a negative effect on their individual workloads, but also on the quality of care for their patients.

“I want to see this multi-billion dollar healthcare corporation, who has positioned itself to be the regional healthcare provider, they really have a monopoly here in our market – they have a moral obligation to our community and our region to provide the adequate level of care and properly staff this facility,” said Allen McClosky, Steward for National Union for Healthcare Workers.

“When nurses protest, mostly they protest for safe patient ratios, because safety is our concern,” added picketer, Thia Bashemin, “It’s rarely about money. Today is about safety and making sure every nurse it entitled to their breaks, their downtime, their lunches, and safe patient ratios.”

The hospital is responding to the protests, saying that they are not in the wrong, as the California Department of Public Health found them to be in compliance regarding staffing after a recent site visit.

They also say they work to fill vacancies quickly, and that they would encourage ‘constructive dialogue’ with their union workers.

Their response can be read in full, here:

Statement from Tammy Bark, Chief Nursing Officer for St. Joseph Health, Humboldt County regarding the March 15 informational picket.

In accordance with our guiding principles and values, we respect the rights of all bargaining unit members who choose to participate in activities, such as picketing, that are guaranteed by federal and state labor laws. The hospital has taken the steps needed to ensure patients’ quality of care is not impacted and that daily operations are maintained during the informational picket planned by the California Nurses Association union (CNA). We will not let this picket negatively affect our patients, their families, our employees, our hospital, or our community.

The California Nurses Association union has launched a campaign that questions our commitment to providing safe nurse-to-patient staffing ratios. Despite what CNA may claim, our commitment to safe staffing is unwavering and our top priority, as demonstrated by the following:

  • Our hospital recently underwent a site visit and review by the California Department of Public Health, which found we were in full compliance regarding staffing.
  • With respect to meal and rest breaks, we have been and remain committed to ensuring that all our caregivers receive their breaks and meal periods and that they are uninterrupted. If these breaks are interrupted, we have procedures in place to ensure that our caregivers may either restart their break or be compensated appropriately.
  • With respect to wages, our registered nurses are among the highest paid members of our care teams, and except where negotiations are ongoing, our system’s non-represented nursing staff and nursing staff with contracts in place have consistently received annual or contractual pay increases. At St. Joseph Hospital, nurses make an average wage of $48.88/hour.
  • We actively work to fill vacancies. We continue to implement a broad plan to attract talented and compassionate nurses to our community, which includes posting jobs on our website, holding job fairs locally and outside our area, and having a recruitment incentive process. In addition, we have established educational opportunities for new nurses via our nursing clinical institute that gives new nursing school graduates excellent training and advancement opportunities.
  • As we have stated before, if the union wishes to make changes to the current contract they negotiated and agreed to uphold, we would be happy to meet and engage in constructive dialogue based on the facts and the law.
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