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Press Release: Riverside Nurses strike for patient safety

June 26, 2020

For Immediate Release:  Friday, June 26, 2020

CONTACT: Terry Carter, (805) 312-0024 Shamezo Lumukanda, (818) 652-3260 Hal Weiss, (213) 247-4585

Nurses’ frustration levels skyrocket as hospital’s lack of safety before & during pandemic continues. They strike over cuts to staffing and other changes implemented unilaterally by the hospital.

Riverside, CA–Registered Nurses at Riverside Community Hospital (RCH) gathered, marched, and spoke out today on their first day of a 10-day strike. Nurses made the difficult decision to strike following a breakdown in discussions over patient and Nurse safety issues directly related to dangerously low staffing levels in the hospital. Last year, even before the COVID-19 pandemic struck, Nurses successfully urged the hospital to increase staffing and end many of its unsafe practices, which resulted in an improved staffing agreement. Recently, the hospital ended that agreement.

“The need to re-use PPE combined with low staffing has left me unable to even take a sip of water at times for up to eight hours,” said Erin McIntosh, a Rapid Response Nurse. “But when we pled with the hospital to provide breaks so we can remove our mask, drink water, get some nutrition, use the restroom—they were unmoved.”

“Those of us responding to coding patients are often forced to stay at bedsides for five, six, seven hours because the hospital doesn’t plan for emergencies or schedule enough ICU Nurses,” said Erik Andrews, RN. “That means there's no one left to respond to codes or critical patients except the Charge Nurse, forcing them to leave their 30-bed ICUs unattended.”

“Scores of my colleagues have COVID-19 due to lack of safety measures in the hospital—more ill RNs than any other hospital in my Union,” said Monique Hernandez, a Charge Nurse. “Two staff members have died. So, when the hospital walked away from our safe staffing proposals, it was really the straw that broke the camel’s back. Enough is enough.”

“The hospital should be taking extra precautions during this pandemic,” said Kathy Montanino, another Rapid Response RN at the hospital. “The hospital continues to cut corners and take risks with Nurses’ and patients’ lives. By ending the agreement, hospital administrators have basically sent a message that regardless of the number of patients, they don’t have to ensure that there are enough Nurses to care for them.”

Although a dangerous lack of PPE has been a problem at all 121RN hospitals, HCA hospitals were particularly unprepared for the pandemic, even when the Union asked them for their staffing, health and safety, infection control and preparedness plans regarding the disease on February 6—well before COVID-19 evolved into a pandemic. In a union-wide member survey, it was the wealthy HCA hospitals that had among the lowest marks for PPE (survey results here).

At the same time, the hospital’s parent company, Healthcare Corporation of America, just received $5 billion in federal bailout money, meant to be used to keep patients and frontline caregivers alive (not to wage war with them). On top of that, the hospital chain was so profitable last year that they took $2 billion to buy back their own stock and pay shareholder dividends.

Nurses will continue their strike through July 6. Contract negotiations begin on July 7, where the Union will focus on staffing, health and safety, including hospital preparedness during states of emergency.


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.


Riverside Community Hospital 10-Day Safe Staffing Strike

Last year, even before the COVID-19 pandemic struck, Union Nurses’ Staffing Issues Committee successfully urged the hospital to increase staffing and end many of its unsafe practices, which resulted in an improved staffing agreement. Recently, the hospital ended that agreement. They then rejected Nurses’ proposals to extend that agreement or continue discussions on safe staffing.

To Nurses, that refusal means:

As if Nurses didn’t have enough challenges with the short-staffing issues, the hospital refuses to take extra precautions during this pandemic, instead cutting corners and taking risks with their lives and the lives of their patients:

At the same time, RCH Nurses work for the largest, wealthiest for-profit healthcare corporation in the nation: