“You never forget those times when you know you’ve truly saved a life,” says Registered Nurse Miriam Cortez. “Like the time we had a patient ready for medical transport to a nursing facility. He’d had a head trauma and began vomiting while waiting to be transported. I knew that was a red flag, possibly indicating a sudden change in brain pressure. I immediately assessed his condition and called the doctor, and a brain scan showed that there had been a major shift in the brain. So instead of transporting the young man out of the hospital, he went straight to ICU.”
Read the Press Statement from SEIU 121RN President Gayle Batiste
Whenever Miriam hears about hospitals pushing their nurses to work out of ratio, she remembers that moment. What if she’d been overloaded? What if attending to the extra patients meant that she’d missed that young man’s symptoms? What if the distraction of too many requests robbed her of critical thinking skills when they were most needed?
“We’re talking life and death here,” says Miriam. “They’ve done studies that show mortality rates really do go up when nurses are out of ratio. I mean think about it: if I’m on a 12-hour shift and you throw just one more patient in the mix, that’s like taking almost half an hour of care or more from each patient. That means they’re forcing you to cut corners and rush. That means not noticing important things.”
It’s that critical assessment time that worries Miriam most—those moments when nurses often catch issues early.
And that’s why, Miriam explains, she stood firm for patient safety one morning when management directed her to take an unlawful six patient assignment.
“I got to the floor at the beginning of my shift,” says Miriam. “And when I was handed my assignments, I saw that I had six patients—in violation of state standards, against the law. I’d been out of ratio before, but that morning, I just saw so clearly the scope and importance of not being out of ratio, how unsafe it is for patients and staff…so I accepted a five patient assignment and told my manager I couldn’t accept a sixth.”
Miriam proceeded to introduce herself to her patients. And that’s when management went into a familiar pattern of intimidation and bullying that is frequently seen on her floor. Her manager and director called her into management’s office.
“They actually asked me, ‘If you’re so concerned about patient care, why don’t you care about this sixth patient?’ It was like they were questioning—even mocking—my concern for patients. I had one patient that day who was dying and another who’d just come out of ICU with complications. I’ve developed good nursing judgment. I knew the level of care that would be required for these patients. I held my ground. I said, ‘I’m sorry. It’s unsafe. I can’t do it.’”
They continued to push and threaten Miriam, questioning again her commitment to patient care and to the unit. Miriam was frustrated that management was bullying her instead of attempting to find a solution to provide for patient and nursing safety. Instead of finding a solution, management suspended Miriam and wrote her up for insubordination. They sent her home without pay. She still has a disciplinary suspension on her record—and Miriam, with her union, is still fighting this. It was the employer who broke the law, not Miriam. This type of retaliation against nurses puts them in fear when they want to advocate for patient safety. It’s an attempt to silence conscientious nurses.
It’s pretty simple. The laws are there for a reason: to protect patients and nurses. That’s why Registered Nurses like Miriam worked with Assemblymember Freddie Rodriguez (D-Pomona) to introduce AB 1102: The Protect Hospital Patient Safety Act (which amends Section 1278.5 of the Health and Safety Code).
The Governor agreed with us and signed this legislation into law on September 25, 2017.
Dear SEIU Local 121RN members,
When I became a leader in our efforts to form our Union, one of the main things that motivated me was the goal of bringing a united voice of nurses calling for improved staffing levels at our hospitals.
And I know I’m not alone.
Time after time, nurses in our hospitals tell us in Bargaining Surveys that safe staffing is among their top priorities (often number one). Time after time, nurses tell us in our Legislative Priorities Surveys that we need stronger laws in Sacramento to stop the hospitals that repeatedly place profits over patients in their staffing decisions.
I’m proud of the work we’ve all done—important work for both patients and nurses.
As many of you know, LAST YEAR we successfully strengthened California’s Whistleblower Protection laws. Signed into law in September, Assembly Bill 1102 (which amends Section 1278.5 of the Health & Safety Code) increases the fines on our employers if they retaliate against us for reporting unlawful assignments that put patient safety and our RN licenses at risk.
THIS YEAR, we worked with State Senator Connie M. Leyva (D–Chino) to write SB 1288, which was introduced on the Senate floor on Friday. SB 1288 will put some real teeth into the regulations that set staffing levels in our hospitals.
SB 1288 will mandate unannounced inspections of hospitals with a special focus on adherence to California’s nurse-to-patient ratios as regulated by Title 22. This bill will also increase the penalties assessed against repeat offender hospitals that continue to flout these regulations. No longer will hospitals be able to simply submit a “plan” when they are cited for staffing violations. Repeat offender hospitals will be subject to ever-increasing fines.
As Senator Leyva said in a press release we sent out Friday, “SB 1288 is important legislation that will help to improve patient health and safety by ensuring that hospitals comply with legally mandated nurse-to-patient staffing ratios. The state needs to take a more proactive role by conducting unannounced visits at hospitals across California. We must do everything we can to make sure that we fully enforce existing law, since the stakes are simply too high for patients. I thank SEIU California and SEIU Local 121RN for co-sponsoring SB 1288 and standing alongside me in our fight to protect patients and making sure that nurses are able to properly care for their patients.”
|———————————–Read the full press release here.———————————–|
Like last year, we will work hard to ensure our bill gets strong bi-partisan support and makes it all the way to the Governor’s desk for his signature. We’ll do it by speaking out, sharing our stories, talking to our co-workers about this important bill, lobbying legislators and speaking to the press.
Please join me and get involved:
P.S. SEIU Local 121RN nurses are going public with our stories:
READ KATHY’S STORY
READ JOYCE’S STORY
SEIU 121RN is offering a half-day training for members who want to help pass important nursing legislation. Last year, we successfully increased whistleblower protections for those of us who experience retaliation for reporting unsafe assignments. This year, SEIU Local 121RN will again sponsor legislation designed to put teeth into Title 22 enforcement.
Continental breakfast and lunch will be provided.
If you plan to participate in the SEIU Nurse Alliance of California Legislative Conference on behalf of 121RN, you must attend this training.
Wednesday, April 18, 2018
We sound alarm on SoCal’s hospital staffing crisis:
On Monday, November 6th, we confronted and challenged top decision makers at the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) to end their slow, inadequate—often nonexistent—responses to our ADOs. (ADOs are the “Assignment Despite Objection” forms that we submit to CDPH to sound the alarm about Southern California hospitals’ illegal and dangerous lack of staffing.)
Those of us on the front line have seen too many unnecessary injuries and even deaths in hospitals across the Southland that are directly attributable to illegally low staffing of nurses, as well as grossly inadequate staffing of support personnel.
We’ve been diligent about blowing the whistle on numerous patient safety violations, sending our ADOs to CDPH. The trouble is, we have not seen the critical corrective measures from CDPH that must happen if we’re ever going to remedy staffing problems. We’ve exhausted our efforts. CDPH Administrators—leaders of the agency tasked with investigating and enforcing the Title 22 laws on minimum staffing ratios—have responded with dismissive comments such as “what do you want the hospital to do?” or “we’d take action if there was a resulting death.”
A few years ago, state legislators reported that from 2004 to 2012, there were 465 out-of-ratio deficiencies reported to CDPH. And although we know probably thousands more go unreported, that’s a significant number.
You know how many of those 465 actually resulted in penalties?
CDPH leadership sends a message to area hospitals when it does not levy penalties and require remedy…the message is this: it’s okay to ignore required staffing baselines. And those of us who continue to stand up to hospitals and refuse illegal assignments that endanger patients are often disciplined by our employers—even suspended—in an attempt to silence us. (See Miriam’s story.)
In fact, this apathetic response from CDPH has led to hospitals now feeling so emboldened that they claim Title 22 regulations are just “recommendations” or “guidelines.”
We spoke out loud and clear. We will not back down on this. We held—and will continue to hold—CDPH administrators accountable for ensuring patient safety.
——-CHECK OUT THE GIANT COMPLAINT FORM WE UNVEILED TODAY——-
We understand that schedules and responsibilities won’t always allow you to be a part of a particular team.
In 2010, I was part of a group of SEIU Local 121RN nurses who headed to Haiti to provide medical relief after a devastating earthquake. Across the U.S., more than 1,000 SEIU healthcare professionals volunteered to go to Haiti. It was an incredible experience.
I won’t kid you: responding to these disasters isn’t easy. We worked long into the night with limited resources, limited plumbing and limited “creature comforts”—but I can also tell you that it felt amazing to be a part of our team giving care and comfort to those who suffered so much injury, illness and loss.
Recently, we reached out to members who were willing and available to volunteer their assistance after Hurricane Harvey hit Texas and other parts of the country. In a short time since then, we’ve learned of numerous additional disasters, both natural and manmade. And while many are feeling overwhelmed, I know that nurses are often the first to think “How can I help?”
Understandably, requests for our medical skills are urgent and time-sensitive. That’s why we will maintain a list of our Registered Nurses who are interested in being a part of an SEIU Local 121RN Disaster Rapid Response Team.
Gayle Batiste, RN
President, SEIU Local 121RN
On September 25, Governor Brown signed our legislation, Assembly Bill 1102 (which amends Section 1278.5 of the Health and Safety Code) into law.
We worked with Assemblymember Freddie Rodriguez (D—Pomona), who introduced the bill. We found that the old fines designed to penalize a hospital for cutting corners on staffing were outdated and simply too low. It was clear that hospital management considered these fines “the cost of doing business.”
These minimal current fines had not been updated in 20 years. Hospitals have been willing to roll the dice and have even disciplined the conscientious nurses (like Miriam) who objected to violations of the law. This is in direct violation of the whistleblower protections afforded to nurses.
The bottom line is: we know that cutting corners and short-staffing puts patients at risk. AB 1102 will increase the fines for a willful violation of whistleblower protection laws from a current ceiling of $20,000 to up to $75,000. These higher fines (which are levied against both hospitals and individual managers)—and our continued commitment to blow the whistle when we see illegal short-staffing—will make it much less appealing for profit-minded hospitals cut corners.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 25, 2017
CONTACT: Terry Carter, (805) 312-0024
SEIU Local 121RN President Gayle Batiste, RN, CNOR, released the following statement on the Governor’s signing of AB 1102 (Rodriguez):
“The Registered Nurses of SEIU Local 121RN are grateful that Governor Brown agrees that patient safety is our state’s number one priority. California continues to lead the nation in the protection of patients and Registered Nurses.
“Those of us on the front line of patient care applaud this strong message from the Governor: Californians won’t tolerate a downward spiral of cut corners and diminished patient safety.
“Registered Nurses of SEIU Local 121RN will continue to push for higher standards and continue to challenge hospitals to be real partners with us and all Californians as we work together to strengthen patient care.”
Service Employees International Union, Local 121RN represents 8,500 registered nurses and professionals at 23 hospitals in Los Angeles and surrounding counties. This member-led organization is committed to supporting optimum working conditions that allow nurses to provide quality patient care and safety.