Nurses To Strike Thursday At 8 Bay Area Sutter Hospitals

OAKLAND (CBS SF) — About 4,000 registered nurses plan to stage a one-day strike at eight Bay Area hospitals on Thursday to protest concessions that Sutter Health management is seeking.

California Nurses Association spokesman Charles Idelson said management is demanding 150 concessions in patient care protections and nursing standards.

In an interview at CNA offices in Oakland, where nurses are preparing picket signs, Millie Borland, a nurse at Alta Bates Summit Medical Center in Oakland, said the concessions management is seeking will cost nurses $20,000 to $30,000 a year.

Elena Ballock, who’s been a nurse at Eden Medical Center in Castro Valley for 35 years, said she’s concerned because she believes that Summit is also cutting back on important services for patients, such as psychiatric care and obstetrics and gynecology.

“We’re up in arms,” Ballock said.

But Carolyn Kemp, a spokeswoman for Alta Bates Summit hospitals in Berkeley and Oakland, said that since contract talks began in May, “We’ve been trying to partner with the nurses but they want more and it’s an unrealistic more.”

Kemp said Summit is asking nurses to make co-payments for their health care coverage but she said nurses are highly-paid, earning an average of $136,000 per year and getting a pension plan worth $84,000 per year for life once they reach age 65 with at least 22 years of experience.

Nurses at Alta Bates Summit campuses have received a 22 percent salary increase over the last three years, she said.

“We’re very saddened they’ve chosen to do this action during the holidays, as it hurts patients and families at a time when no one wants to be in the hospital,” Kemp said.

The walkout will affect Alta Bates campuses in Berkeley and Oakland, Mills-Peninsula hospital campuses in Burlingame and San Mateo, Eden Medical Center facilities in Castro Valley and San Leandro, Sutter Delta in Antioch and Sutter Solano in Vallejo.

Kemp said Sutter had to enter into five-day contracts with replacement nurses who will fill in for the striking nurses, as it’s difficult to find nurses who will only work for one day during the holidays.

Sutter Health spokeswoman Karen Garner said the replacement nurses will be paid for five days but will only work two days, Thursday and Friday.

The striking nurses won’t be allowed to come back to work until Saturday morning, she said.

“Double-paying nurses is costly,” Kemp said.

Garner said that during the strike Sutter “plans to preserve the same level of service that our patients deserve and expect.”

(Copyright 2011 by CBS San Francisco and Bay City News Service. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)


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