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BCH nurses set for one-day strike

STAFF WRITER

BARSTOW • Despite a one-day strike planned by the registered nurses at Barstow Community Hospital, the hospital’s services won’t be interrupted Tuesday, BCH spokesman John Rader said.

According to a news release sent out by BCH, the hospital received a written notice of the California Nurses Association’s intent to picket and strike on Tuesday.

According to CNA negotiator Stephen Matthews, the registered nurses are protesting BCH’s refusal to address the nurses’ concerns, including patient safety, inadequate staffing, substandard wages and alleged violations of RN representation rights.

Matthews said the BCH registered nurses are paid between $8 to $10 less an hour than registered nurses at other hospitals in the High Desert. Matthews also said poor staffing has led to an “extremely high RN turnover,” as nearly a third of the current nurses have been hired in the last year.

“The community is losing many experienced registered nurses, which compromises patient safety,” Matthews said. “Many of the nurses have left to other hospitals where they are going to receive more money. It’s been difficult to keep nurses here at the hospital. We want something to be done about it because we want nurses to stay to gain their expertise for the community, not to have people constantly leaving.”

According to Matthews, studies have shown registered nurses take up to five years to become experts in their field. Matthews feels the hospital is not allowing the community of Barstow access to this expertise.

Matthews said BCH was hit with a federal injunction earlier this year, ordering it to cease and desist flagrant violations of the RNs’ collective bargaining rights. According to Matthews, numerous violations have continued, with the RNs filing federal charges that the hospital is illegally abridging the nurses’ rights with unfair discipline against union supporters and other violations of federal labor law.

“We value the nurses and all of our caregivers who play an integral role in providing quality, safe care for patients,” BCH spokesman John Rader stated on an email Monday. “Our hospital staffing is based on the volume and medical needs of our patients and in compliance with California law. We encourage and facilitate nurse participation in daily department safety meetings as well as hospital committees focused on quality, staffing and safety.”

“Since earlier this year, the hospital has been negotiating in good faith with the CNA by putting forth fair and reasonable proposals with the objective of reaching a mutually acceptable agreement,” the statement continued. “We remain committed to the collective bargaining process and to maintaining a positive relationship with our employees and their bargaining agents. The choice to, or not to, strike belongs to each employee and we respect that right.”

The hospital’s services, including emergency, inpatient units, surgeries and diagnostic procedures, will continue as scheduled as the hospital has secured qualified temporary replacement nurses through a staffing agency, according to BCH. Prior to being assigned duties, the replacement nurses will participate in a formal hospital orientation program, the release states.

Matthews said the CNA will also have registered nurses ready and prepped in case there are any issues with the hospital’s replacement nurses.

BCH is expecting a peaceful demonstration but is taking precautions with additional security throughout the facility to ensure all public hospital entrances and parking areas remain open.

Barstow Community Hospital is not the only hospital in the country that will see its nurses strike Tuesday. According to a news release from the CNA, Watsonville Community Hospital and a Pennsylvania hospital will also hold one-day strikes, and there will be picketing at hospitals in Ohio and West Virginia. There will be two press conferences at hospitals in West Virginia and in Fallbrook.

The strike will begin at 7 a.m. on Tuesday and continue until 7 a.m. on Wednesday, the release states.


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