October 21, 2022

1,800 Nurses Vote To Strike at Alta Bates Summit Medical Center in Oakland CA

1,800 Nurses Vote To Strike at Alta Bates Summit Medical Center in Oakland CA

The California Nurses Association/National Nurses United (CNA/NNU) announced that the over 1,800 nurses it represents at Alta Bates Summit Medical Center (ABSMC) in Oakland and Berkeley, CA will strike for five days from October 24-28. The union issued a 10-day notice to Sutter Health to let the hospital administrators know of their plans. 

Alta Bates is another hospital in a string of facilities that have either announced plans to strike or have already issued strikes. “We’re fighting to make our hospital a true place of healing — one that’s safe for those who seek care and those who provide it,” the California Nurses Union said. 

Nurses’ Concerns

According to the union, the strike is being planned over ongoing patient care issues, workplace violence, and unusually high turnover rates. 

High turnover

The high turnover rate was cited as something that is very concerning to current nurses at the hospital. “It is not uncommon for a newly graduated nurse to come to our hospital to get one or two years of experience and then leave,” Ann Gaebler, a NICU RN said in the union’s statement. “We are honored to mentor these young nurses, but it is crucial for our patients that we retain these young nurses and our experienced nurses.

Workplace violence

Unfortunately, despite CA enacting the California Workplace Violence Prevention law in 2017, Sutter Health was fined by OSHA for violations that included failing to have an appropriate workplace violence prevention plan at the medical center. RN Mike Hill, who works in Alta Bates’ ICU, noted that the hospital also needs unit-specific workplace violence plans because every unit is different. 

Unsafe conditions for nurses

Alta Bates has also been subjected to several fines for unsafe workplace conditions in the past year: From 2020-2021, the hospital was fined for serious workplace violations—including the death of a nurse during the height of the pandemic—and for failing to inform two nurses that they were exposed to COVID-19. In total, the hospital was ordered to pay over $300K for 16 total violations. “Now that there are 16 Cal/OSHA citations across both campuses of the medical center, it is abundantly clear that there has been a fundamental breakdown and disregard for the safety of the nurses—including Sutter’s obligation to provide a safe working environment,” Mike Hill, an RN and chief nurse representative at the Summit Campus sad at the time. “Although these safety issues had been rejected by Sutter as not requiring action on their part, Cal/OSHA has made it crystal clear that they have an obligation to correct each and every safety issue cited.”

The Hospital’s Response

According to Patch.com, the hospital issued a statement expressing its disappointment in the nurses’ union:

"We are disappointed union leaders chose to disregard our patients by calling a five-day strike at Alta Bates Summit Medical Center," a Sutter Health spokesperson said. "Regardless of the union's actions, ABSMC's commitment to providing the community with critical services and high-quality, safe patient care during a strike and into the future remains unchanged."

The Sutter Health spokesperson also told Becker's that there have been a number of federal-mediated bargaining sessions. They added that the session results were confidential, but noted that they believed the sessions were “the most efficient way to reach a fair and equitable agreement."
Nurse.Org has reached out to the hospital and nurses union for a comment and has not received a reply. 

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