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CA Hospital Patient's Death Betrays a Trust

John Commins, for HealthLeaders Media, October 3, 2011

CNA/NNU, please don't tell us this strike was about patient care. There is nothing wrong with fighting for better pay and benefits. If it had been about patient advocacy, however, you would have stayed at the bedside.

Strikes disrupt patient care. Unions know that, and that is why strike threats carry weight. At least one study indicates that mortality rates jump by nearly 20% when patients are admitted during strikes. Unions know that hospitals will be hard pressed to find qualified replacement staff on-the-fly because there is a nationwide nursing shortage. So, when that labor disruption leads to the injury or death of a patient, nobody should be surprised and shocked.

As for Sutter Health, this tragedy illustrates how management gets the union it deserves. Sutter claims the five-day lockout was necessary because that was the shortest contract they could sign with the nurse staffing agency. That may be true, but contracts can be redrawn.

Kaiser Permanente hospitals, for example, were also the target of one- and three-day strikes last month but their union nurses were back on the job the next day. Perhaps the five-day lockout at Alta Bates was a punitive measure from hospital leadership to hit nurses in the paycheck and discourage them from future strikes. Clearly there was brinksmanship at play here, and apparently at least one patient suffered for it.  

Sometimes in these labor disputes, healthcare professionals forget what line of work they're in. Hard noses, bare knuckles, and sharp elbows might work at a tire factory or a pier on Long Beach, but they aren't appropriate in a healthcare setting.

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6 comments on "CA Hospital Patient's Death Betrays a Trust"


Maureen Dugan (10/5/2011 at 2:21 AM)
Yes Registered Nurses are trusted by patients and the community. We did not betray that trust. That was done by hospital administrators such as Sutter, who refuse to negotiate in good faith. Registered Nurses do not strike lightly. We are held to a 100% standard of providing safe, effective and therapeutic care[INVALID]and yet how do we as nurses hold the hospital to their 100% of responsibility? Thankfully , as a member of a all RN Union , we have a voice. We speak up every day and every way afforded to us. What we hear in response is: no staff is available, you have to make due, our budget is fixed, ignore the obscene raises and bonuses the CEO, etc are getting, there is no more nursing staff to assist you....Nurses are standing up , advocating for our patients and our profession. If I do not do that I can have my license revoked by the state. My patients trust me to fight for them , and that is what I do every day for the last 22 years.

april (10/4/2011 at 9:44 PM)
ARE YOU KIDDING ME????!!!!! You think doctors treat patients for no money (where the hell did you get that from by the way), you think doctors have to put up with the CRAP that nurses have to put up with from management trying to change the ways we KNOW patients should be treated? We have a solid education in patient care but the people who decide how to treat patients sit behind a desk. Ridiculous. If nurses made more decisions on patient care errors and death rates would plummet.

Sheri (10/4/2011 at 7:27 PM)
Really? at Chloes comment above- Doctors look at insurance cards far more often than nurses ever do.