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BCH nurses strike, ask for 'respect'
BCH nurses ask for ‘respect’
By Jose Quintero
BARSTOW • Approximately 25 registered nurses employed by Barstow Community Hospital were holding picket signs and chanting in full force by 8 a.m. Tuesday morning.
A demand for respect was the theme during Tuesday’s one-day strike.
“We’re just tired, we want to be really respected,” BCH registered nurse Mike Ziemer said. “They just do not give us any respect. On a day-to-day basis, we basically don’t know what policy we’re going to follow. We’re chastised for not following policies that they don’t even tell us about. That’s why were here; we want to get a little respect and do good by our patients.”
Ziemer has been a registered nurse at BCH since 1988 and also worked for the hospital in the late 70s and early 80s.
Ziemer said he spends more time filling out paperwork and forms than spending time with his patients.
“We want to show the Community Health Systems corporation that we’re serious and we just want to bargain,” Ziemer said. “We want to sit across the table, offer proposals, get a contract and improve the hospital for the better of the community. Currently, we’re not even close to a contract, we haven’t even scratched the surface.”
RN Jennifer Vitha said CHS has been reluctant to bargain with the nurses and has been a “tough one to crack.”
Unlike Ziemer, Vitha has only been with BCH roughly a year and a half, but she calls herself an “old-timer” because she’s one of the older nurses at BCH. Vitha said the nurses are the ones on the “front lines” as they advocate for their patients.
“They don’t staff properly; they cut us consistently because of (a low number of patients in the hospital), which is unfortunate,” Vitha said. “The way they staff can be done differently, but they just don’t care. That’s a major concern here. We don’t have resources that we need. We come across new things every day and we have to figure them out on our own because we don’t have anybody to turn to. Being one of the older nurses here, I don’t always feel like I can help the newer nurses that come to me for help.”
In a statement Tuesday afternoon, BCH spokesman John Rader stated, “the hospital always has and continues to appreciate and respect everyone who contributes to our effort, including our nurses.”
Despite the strike, Rader reaffirmed that the hospital was continuing to provide “high quality” care for patients, with the assistance of an agency who was able to provide temporary replacement nurses.
According to Rader, the hospital is expecting some of the striking nurses to return on Wednesday. Other nurses who have been replaced by temporary staff are expected to return to their next scheduled shift after 7 a.m. on Friday. Rader stated the hospital had to make a 72-hour contractual commitment to the replacement nurses through the agency.
“Barstow Community Hospital is a team committed to achieving excellence in patient care,” Rader stated. “We expect that our nurses, those who participated in today’s strike and those who did not participate in the strike, will work side-by-side toward our common mission to care for our patients in a safe and compassionate manner.”
According to a source at the hospital who asked to be anonymous because of the sensitivity of the issue, nearly 30 percent of the registered nurses who were scheduled to work on Tuesday ended up crossing the picket line and reporting to work.
Jose Quintero can be reached at 760-256-4122 or JQuintero@DesertDispatch.com.