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Nurses Strike At Children’s Hospital Oakland Over Health Plan

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Oakland nurses strike

Nurses picket outside Children’s Hospital Oakland, May 5, 2011. (CBS)

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OAKLAND (CBS SF) — More than 100 nurses and other medical staff picketed outside Children’s Hospital Oakland Thursday as part of a five-day strike that began this morning in protest of a proposed decrease in their employer-covered health care expenses.

The strike was called because hospital management recently presented the nurses with a proposal that would cost them thousands of dollars more each year for health care benefits for their families.

Under one option in the proposed plan, nurses would have to pay about 15 percent of yearly medical expenses in a monthly co-pay system. This would mean they would pay about $4,000 more each year to utilize health care for their families at Children’s Hospital, spokeswoman Erin Goldsmith said.

Right now, the nurses do not make any contributions to plans that provide their family health care at Children’s Hospital, Goldsmith said.

Administrators are also offering two other health care options in the disputed proposal.

KCBS’ Bob Melrose Reports:

The second option is a health maintenance organization plan that uses Kaiser and that is fully paid by the hospital, Goldsmith said.

The last option is a preferred provider organization plan, but with a high deductible paid by employees, she said.

The hospital proposed a change in the health care plan to the California Nurses Association , which represents the nurses, last May before the previous three-year contract expired in July, Bayer said.

The union, which represents about 750 nurses at the hospital, engaged in negotiations until October, when the nurses felt they reached an impasse. The nurses then picketed for three days, said Deborah Bayer, who has been a nurse at the hospital since 1987.

“We thought we had to get their attention. We weren’t going to accept that kind of treatment,” she said.

Administrators made similar proposals with health care reductions until April, when nurses again felt like they were not making progress and announced they were planning Thursday’s strike.

Goldsmith said the medical center was aware of the planned strike and that administrators will continue negotiations after it ends, but that there have been no plans to revise the proposal made to CNA.

She said about 30 percent of people who planned to strike instead crossed the picket line and they are working today. Most of those who are picketing are not receiving pay.

“We did reschedule elective surgeries until after the strike, but we’re open for emergency and trauma-related surgeries,” she said.

Goldsmith also emphasized that administrators are sticking to an earlier claim that nurses at the hospital earn an average of about $67 per hour.

“The nurses aren’t happy that number is out there, but it’s a fact,” she said.

That figure is calculated based on nurses who work 40 hours each week, Goldsmith said.

“A lot of nurses don’t work 40 hours a week. They can afford to not work that much,” she said.

(Copyright 2011 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services may have contributed to this report.)

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