For: November 4, 2022
Contact: Hal Weiss, (213) 247-4585
Caregivers say record turn-over, a toxic workplace culture and a lack of commitment to pandemic preparedness all fuel for staff burnout.
Tarzana, CA–Nurses and Licensed Medical Professionals (Caregivers) at Providence Cedars-Sinai Tarzana Medical Center held a picket and rally on Friday, citing a host of concerns which they say are pushing staff to the breaking point. At their picket, the Caregivers spoke out about record staff turnover, leaving too few staff to safely care for patients. In addition, they reported a pervasive toxic workplace culture, wherein staff have been subjected to physical, verbal and sexual harassment—an issue on which, they say, the hospital has failed to take action.
The Caregivers—who are represented by SEIU 121RN—have been in contract negotiations since June. At the bargaining table, they have made proposals aimed at resolving the problems they say are contributing to an acute crisis of burnout at the hospital. While the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact the entire healthcare industry, Caregivers at Providence Cedars-Sinai Tarzana say the issues that they have raised are fixable, as well as urgent.
In one survey of SEIU 121RN members at Providence Cedars-Sinai Tarzana Medical Center, nearly three-quarters said that they would fear retaliation for reporting harassment.
“There’s a culture of harassment and abuse at our hospital, and it’s existed for years,” said Frank DiBisceglie, an RN in the Surgery Department at Providence Cedars-Sinai Tarzana Medical Center. It is widely known throughout our hospital. Caregivers have experienced physical and verbal abuse, and some have endured sexual harassment at the hands of Doctors and some other third parties. Every time we ask management to do something, we’re shut down,” DiBisceglie said. “We’re told that there is a ‘code of conduct’ that medical staff must follow, but when incidents are reported, nothing happens. In fact, Doctors have been transferred to other system hospitals when they’ve been found to be in violation. It’s as if management is trying to hide the problem instead of taking action, and so it festers.”
Other Caregivers pointed to the hospital’s failures over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic and expressed fear that—unless changes are made—they will not be protected in the event of another crisis.
“With the meager supplies we were given — gowns like garbage bags, masks reused over and over — PPE was always a concern, said Rosie Suarez, an RN in the hospital’s Pediatric Intensive Care Unit. “If everything that went wrong at the hospital turned into a lesson learned, there could be a silver-lining in the painful experiences that continue to haunt us. Instead, management seems bent on forgetting. When we raise these issues at the bargaining table, it isn’t to complain, it’s to safeguard our future,” Suarez said.
Caregivers say that many of the ongoing issues they face can and should be resolved through their ongoing contract negotiations.
“There are myriad problems that face Caregivers at Providence Cedars-Sinai Tarzana Medical Center, and all of them have clear solutions, which we have proposed,” said SEIU 121RN Executive Director Rosanna Mendez. “The hospital should commit to ensuring they have sufficient PPE on hand before the next public health emergency. They should also ensure that Caregivers receive breaks and lunches to prevent physical and mental exhaustion from potentially causing medical errors, and they should work on recognizing and retaining experienced staff. Finally, the Hospital’s position that they can’t take action against certain doctors and other third parties found in violation of any form of harassment is appalling,” Mendez said.
The Caregivers hope that by raising the issues they face publicly, the hospital will finally act. Contract negotiations will resume on Monday.
“In the age of MeToo, harassment is totally unacceptable, and we’re unwilling to tolerate it anymore," DiBisceglie said.
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.