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nurses' strike

Nurses and healthcare workers at Sutter Health's Solano Medical Center in Vallejo, California participate in a one-day strike on April 18, 2022. (Photo: California Nurses Association/Twitter)

Thousands of Sutter Health Nurses Stage 1-Day Northern California Strike

"We're tired of being ignored and left without the resources we need to care for our patients," explained California Nurses Association.

Brett Wilkins

Thousands of nurses at 18 Northern California Sutter Health hospitals and medical facilities on Monday began a one-day strike to protest what their union called the healthcare provider's refusal to address "proposals about safe staffing and health and safety protections" amid the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

"We have tried repeatedly to address the chronic and widespread problem of short staffing that causes delays in care and potentially puts patients at risk."

More than 8,000 members of California Nurses Association (CNA)—a National Nurses United (NNU) affiliate—and CNA-affiliated Caregivers and Healthcare Employees Union are participating in the action, according to NNU.

"The Sutter nurses voted for this strike," Renee Waters, a trauma-neuro intensive care registered nurse with 26 years' experience, said in a statement.

She added that "we are striking because Sutter is not transparent about the stockpile of PPE supplies and contact tracing," a reference to the personal protective equipment that has often been in short supply throughout the pandemic.

The striking nurses are asking for "safe staffing that allows nurses to provide safe and therapeutic care" and "pandemic readiness protections that require the hospitals to invest in personal protective equipment stockpiles and comply with California's PPE stockpile law."

Waters insisted that "we must address these issues and more."

"A fair contract is needed to retain experienced nurses, have sufficient staffing and training, and ensure we have the resources we need to provide safe and effective care for our patients," she said. "Nurses are fighting back against Sutter putting profits before patients and health care workers."

Amy Erb, a registered nurse who works in critical care at California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco, said that "nurses overwhelmingly voted to go out on strike because we see no other option left for us and our patients."

"We have tried repeatedly to address the chronic and widespread problem of short staffing that causes delays in care and potentially puts patients at risk, but hospital administrators continue to ignore us," she added. "We have a moral and legal obligation to advocate for our patients. We advocate for them at the bedside, at the bargaining table, and if we have to, on the strike line."

Committee for Recognition of Nursing Achievement (CRONA), a union representing nurses at two of the nation's leading hospitals—Stanford Health Care and Lucile Packard Children's Hospital, both in Palo Alto—announced Monday that around 5,000 of its members would strike in one week's time amid collapsing contract negotiations.

"Nurses are exhausted, and we're burning out," Charon Brown, a nurse in the cardiovascular intensive care unit at Stanford Health Care, said in a statement. "Striking is a last resort, but the hospitals are refusing to take our well-being seriously."

CRONA vice president and Stanford radiology nurse Kathy Stormberg said that "hospitals have not wanted to acknowledge how short-staffed we are. They don't want to acknowledge that relying on travel nurses and staff nurses working overtime shifts isn't sustainable. People are worn out."

"Nurses are exhausted, and we're burning out. Striking is a last resort, but the hospitals are refusing to take our well-being seriously."

The union's nurses have been working without a contract since March 31, and demanding solutions to chronic staffing problems, as well as mental health and wellness support, and competitive wages and benefits.

Meanwhile, CRONA noted that Stanford and Packard hospitals reported that their joint operating surplus soared by $676 million in 2021, with the two facilities raking in a combined $8.3 billion in revenue. Stanford Health Care CEO David Entwistle received more than $3 million in compensation in tax year 2019, according to hospital filings

"I am frustrated that Stanford and Packard hospitals would rather cut corners than invest in their bedside nurses, especially after receiving hundreds of millions in federal aid dollars," CRONA president and Packard pediatric oncology nurse Colleen Borges said. "Providing care at such wealthy hospitals should not cost nurses our health, our sanity, or our time with our loved ones."

"Instead of acknowledging our sacrifices and rewarding us with the support we need," she added, "the hospitals would rather push overworked and exhausted nurses toward a strike."

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