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Nurses Strike At Dozens Of Bay Area Hospitals

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Nurses prepare pickets during a previous strike action. (CBS)

Nurses prepare pickets during a previous strike action. (CBS)

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SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) – Tens of thousands of Northern and Central California nurses were striking Thursday to protest hospitals’ proposed labor concessions and other grievances that they say are unnecessary and unwarranted.

As picketing RNs in the Bay Area held rallies and marches, hospital officials said their facilities are still functional with the aid of replacement nurses and those who have crossed the picket lines in the 24-hour strike.

Nurses are striking at the region’s two largest hospital chains, Kaiser Permanente and Sutter Health, and at Children’s Hospital in Oakland, among other hospitals.

Many of the estimated 23,000 workers striking Thursday—including those in the Sutter system—are in the middle of contract negotiations, while Kaiser nurses walked off the job Thursday in a sympathy strike, according to a California Nurses Association statement.

“The picket lines are huge,” CNA spokesman Charles Idelson said Thursday morning, as thousands of nurses geared up for a march and rally at Alta Bates Summit Medical Center in Berkeley and a 2 p.m. rally at Mills-Peninsula Medical Center in Burlingame.

Idelson said the RNs who were picketing Thursday were protesting hospitals’ proposed cuts to health care and retiree coverage for themselves and other hospital workers, plus restrictions on their ability to advocate for patients.

Yet Bay Area hospital officials said Thursday morning that there was no major impact on operations.

Dr. Steve O’Brien, Alta Bates’ vice president of medical affairs, said that both the Oakland and Berkeley campuses are operating just as well, if not better, than usual.

KCBS’ Holly Quan Reports:

“Things are running very smoothly, we’re very well-staffed,” he said, noting that the replacement nurses helping to fill striking workers’ shoes today are all experienced RNs, many of whom have worked at the local Sutter hospitals before.

A number of the Sutter-affiliated hospitals’ nurses also crossed the picket lines Thursday, he said.

Erin Goldsmith, a spokeswoman for Children’s Hospital and Research Center Oakland, said that while about 700 of the hospital’s nurses are California Nurses Association members, about 125 of them crossed the picket line Thursday.

Elective surgeries at the hospital were postponed, but emergency services were fully functional, she said.

Idelson said hospitals’ “long list of demands” under current contract negotiations include an attempt to roll back hard-won RN rights and to limit nurses’ input regarding patient care, in addition to cutting benefits.

O’Brien said he was puzzled by Thursday’s strike and said that Sutter’s nurses are “among the highest-compensated in the country,” with the average nurse there earning $136,000 yearly.

He said Sutter nurses who want a “Cadillac (health care) plan” are being asked for the first time to contribute $14 per pay period, but that other benefits would still be fully employer-funded.

“We’re going to welcome them back when they come back—this is a temporary thing,” he said.

Hospitals where registered nurses were expected to go on strike:

Sutter Hospitals

■Alta Bates Summit Medical Center, Berkeley (Alta Bates Campus)
■Alta Bates Summit Medical Center, Oakland (Summit Campus)
■Alta Bates Summit Medical Center, Berkeley (Herrick Campus)
■Eden Medical Center, Castro Valley (Eden Campus)
■Eden Medical Center, San Leandro (San Leandro Campus)
■Mills-Peninsula Health Services, Burlingame (Peninsula Campus)
■Mills-Peninsula Health Services, San Mateo (Mills Campus)
■Novato Community Hospital, Novato
■Sutter Solano Medical Center, Vallejo
■Sutter Delta Medical Center, Antioch
■Sutter Lakeside Hospital, Lakeside
■Sutter Medical Center, Santa Rosa
■Children’s Hospital Oakland

Kaiser Permanente Hospitals
■Antioch
■Fremont
■Fresno
■Hayward
■Oakland
■Manteca
■Modesto
■Redwood City
■Richmond
■Roseville
■Sacramento
■San Rafael
■Santa Rosa
■San Francisco
■San Jose
■Santa Clara
■South Sacramento
■South San Francisco
■Stockton
■Vacaville
■Vallejo
■Walnut Creek

(Copyright 2011 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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