PRESS RELEASE: Nurses launch radio ad campaign to sound the alarm on serious deficiencies—during a pandemic—in three very profitable southland hospitals.

For Immediate Release:
Monday, August 17, 2020

CONTACT:
Terry Carter, (805) 312-0024

Nurses and Licensed Healthcare Professionals at:

Los Robles Regional Medical Center
Riverside Community Hospital, and
West Hills Hospital and Medical Center

…also decry harsh retaliation of those who speak out.

Southern California–Registered Nurses and Licensed Healthcare Professionals at Los Robles Regional Medical Center, Riverside Community Hospital, and West Hills Hospital and Medical Center—all owned by national healthcare giant Hospital Corporation of America—launched radio ads on KFI 640 AM, KNX 1070 AM, Real 92.3 FM, KLOS FM, POWER 106 FM, The Wave FM, and KIIS FM.

The ads urge the three hospitals to listen to their healthcare workers serving on the front lines of this pandemic, instead of disregarding input, disciplining and even threatening to dismiss them.

121RN members at these hospitals have sounded the alarm for months on dangerously low staffing levels, aggressive rationing of PPE, and other unsafe practices.

  • A West Hills Hospital Nurse was suspended for alerting her colleagues of possible COVID-19 exposure; ultimately this Nurse was honored on National Whistleblower Appreciation Day. Read more.
  • Members held vigils and rallies at all three hospitals, including a 10-day strike at Riverside Community Hospital June 26 thru July 6. Read more.
  • After that strike, the hospital immediately retaliated by announcing plans to eliminate the positions of 57 Charge Nurses, who had been leaders in the strike for safe staffing. Read more.
  • Soon after the strike, 121RN members at all three hospitals planned to introduce important pandemic safety measures during their Union contract negotiations with the employer. Because these safety proposals are of great interest to the community right now, the Union’s Bargaining Team invited a reporter and two key state legislators to observe the negotiations. The employer immediately left the bargaining table and has refused to meet unless the Union agrees to end this kind of transparency. The Union has agreed to bargain over ground rules, but the hospitals still refuse to return to negotiations.

Staff are dying. Scores of RNs at Riverside Community Hospital have fallen ill with COVID-19 (more than at any other hospital where SEIU Local 121RN represents members). Two recent deaths of RCH support personnel—an environmental services worker and a lab technician—have not caused RCH to improve staffing or increase PPE. The hospital appears to view these valued staff as dispensable casualties. Union members also note that patients at understaffed hospitals are more likely to die of COVID-19. Read more. There’s a dangerous lack of personal protective equipment, which staff need to safely care for patients. Although it’s been a problem at other hospitals, HCA hospitals were particularly unprepared for the shortage and didn’t handle it well. In a Union-wide 121RN member survey, it was the wealthy HCA hospitals that had some of the lowest marks for available PPE (survey results here). These hospitals often claim that they’re “following CDC guidelines on PPE,” when in fact they’re following only the worst-case scenario recommendations, designed to be followed only when there is extreme shortage of PPE. Nurses at these hospitals don’t describe extreme shortage. They describe unnecessarily aggressive, dangerous rationing.

Also, the hospitals continue to claim that they “haven’t furloughed anyone”—this is obfuscation. Many RNs were removed from the schedule and/or had their hours reduced. The hospitals completely eliminated all per diems, travelers, registry nurses from their schedules. They are not understaffing because there aren’t enough Nurses. They are understaffing out of choice.

HCA is in remarkably solid financial shape and could easily afford to at least staff up to the bare bones Title 22 nurse-to-patient ratio requirements. In fact, HCA’s CEO said that the corporation’s profits in the 2nd quarter this year led to “possibly the most remarkable” quarter he’s experienced in his 37 years with HCA.

 

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SEIU Local 121RN represents registered nurses and other healthcare professionals in California. This member-led organization is committed to supporting optimum working conditions that allow nurses to provide quality patient care and safety.

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