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Union Nurses vote to authorize a strike at Van Nuys Behavioral Health Hospital

February 3, 2022

Press Release



Shamezo Lumukanda(626) 491-2208
Hal Weiss (213) 247-4585

Concerns over patient safety, workplace violence, and an epidemic of worker burnout prompt Nurses to action.

Van Nuys, CA–Nurses at Van Nuys Behavioral Health Hospital voted to authorize a strike on Tuesday, citing concerns about patient safety, staffing, and worker retention issues. The vote, which was held during a picket outside the hospital entrance, gives authority to the nurses’ contract bargaining team to move forward with a strike if they feel that negotiations are not yielding results.

As a facility that treats patients facing mental health crises, Van Nuys Behavioral Health Hospital serves a particularly vulnerable patient population. As they rallied outside the hospital on Tuesday, nurses voiced a litany of alarming safety concerns–problems which they say have plagued the hospital for some time. As they navigate confrontational patient dynamics, nurses at the hospital worry that insufficient security will leave them unprotected. There are concerns for the public too–patients, including the unhoused, are sometimes released without a negative COVID-19 test, often to unknown locations.

Routine unsafe staffing compounds these problems–posing significant risks to nurses, patients and the community. Nurses say they have raised these issues during ongoing contract negotiations, only to be ignored by management.

Other nurses spoke out about the problems caused by unsafe staffing amidst the pandemic.

“Nurses are expected to get an order for restraints by FaceTime because Doctors are unavailable in house or unreachable over the phone especially after hours,” said Sheila Wells, who works in the Psych unit. “We need the ability and the resources to keep Nurses and patients safe”

Nurses have reported violations to regulatory agencies and the Hospital has been fined by OSHA for failure to comply with the Aerosol Transmissible Disease standard, which requires adequate, fit-tested PPE be made available to healthcare workers in certain situations.

“Once CDPH is involved, the Hospital risks losing its license and we risk losing our patients, and thus our jobs,” Wells said. “We need to have language in our contract that addresses this issue so that we can maintain safety for staff and keep good Nurses.”

If the nurses’ bargaining team calls for a strike, it could come as soon as February 14.


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.