OAKLAND (KCBS) – Thousands of nurses at several Sutter Health hospitals in the Bay Area have walked off the job on Wednesday, part of a scheduled one-day strike over ongoing contract negotiations.

About 4,400 registered nurses are striking, the fourth such action since last September. The most recent strike was on May 1.

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Wednesday’s strike is the latest in a series organized by members of the California Nurses Association, as contract negotiations have stalled over the last year.

The nurses are protesting higher health care costs, a loss of sick leave and mandatory overtime. But Sutter Health, which is based in Sacramento, said the nurses are asking for an unrealistic double-digit raise and free health care.

KCBS’ Holly Quan Reports:

Mike Hill is an ICU nurse and acknowledges that the job action may puzzle the public.

“Yes, we had a strike on May 1. We have a strike here in June,” Hill said. “But that’s what we have to do to try to get the hospital to understand that this is not good for us and not good for them. So let’s just get this settled.”

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Sutter posted on its website this week, “From six-figure average wages for full-time nurses to an employer-paid pension and other quality benefits, Sutter Health hospitals understand that providing high-quality care for patients starts with taking great care of nurses—and all employees.”

“Sutter is trying to undermine our ability to treat patients,” California Nurses Association spokesman Charles Idelson said. “Stop worrying about your bottom line and start worry about patients,” Idelson said in response to the health network’s figures, which he said are inflated.

Idelson cited more than $4 billion in profit since 2005 for the health network.

Alta Bates Summit Medical Center in Oakland, the largest of the facilities where strikes are occurring, has deferred comment until later in the day, though a spokeswoman said nothing has changed from the previous three strikes.

Replacement workers have been brought in to replace the striking nurses. Because they have five-day contracts, any striking nurses won’t be back on the job until June 18.

In solidarity with the Sutter strike, nurses at Petaluma Valley Hospital in Petaluma, which is part of the St. Joseph Health System, was also picketing Wednesday.

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