Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Who Will Pay for Greed?

My union is still in contract "negotiations" with Sutter Health, a Utah based not-for-profit hospital consortium. I hate them. So much.

I am glad to have my union to protect me, but Sutter is doing all it can to bust the union. We have been striking and fighting not for raises, but simply to maintain our contract and *safe* working practices for over 18 months.

My unit, Labor and Delivery, has the most activists in our two hospitals. All of us in L&D but ONE honor the strike. That's over 150 nurses on the line. We are punished routinely for this with not enough staffing when we need it. Last week, for example, night shift had only 14 nurses with a board that called for 24 nurses just to be safe. Our charge RN called the managers to ask for time-and-a-half to call nurses in to work at 3 am. I mean, who in their right mind is going to come in to work when it's slammed, as a favor to the employer? Seriously? Patients were waiting in triage, delivering in the hallway, bleeding. It was unsafe.  The manager: "No. We cannot authorize overtime because the union is voting on a strike next week."

So management has made the decision to jeopardize patient safety because we RNs are entitled to strike  under labor law. It's horrific, and punitive, primarily to patients.

We have had multiple near misses for bad events. What will it take for them to meet with us to talk about patient safety? One death? Two? Three? How many dead babies?

We had invited the Chief Nursing Executives to meet with a union committee focused on patient safety for over a year. No response. A month ago, they finally agreed. They asked as many L&D RNs to come to the committee meeting as possible to talk about what we've witnessed. Many of us did. Then the executives canceled at the 11th hour and sent designees from HR instead, who, by the way, are now called "Business Partners," just to make it clear they're not there for us, but for the corporation. The Business Partners, moreover, had nothing to do with staffing, and nothing to do with L&D. Interesting. They promised to take our messages to management, but after the meeting never returned our e-mail or telephone calls. Interesting. In true punitive form, HR hijacked *our* meeting to tell us that we were "unprofessional" for not treating traveler RNs (the ones who were scabs for our strikes but then hired to help out sometimes when our staffing was low) politely enough. We said that we were polite, but that we didn't need to be friends with them. He rolled his eyes at us. How professional is that?

So no change.

Then yesterday a follow-up meeting was scheduled, and HR was told that they were not invited. It was for the nursing executives *only* to attend with us. HR told us that it was five "Business Partners," plus the nursing executives, or nothing. Our contract states that we cannot deal with HR directly, but that if the nursing executives designate one of them as proxy, that is all right. ONE person, ONE proxy. Not five plus three. There was a standoff outside the door, and HR would not let the executives speak when we invited the executives alone inside. We consequently did not let *any* of them enter our meeting. It was a union meeting, a closed meeting. Clearly, HR wants to police us and the executives so that nothing is promised (i.e., no money is spent). It's sick.

Oh, and one of the "Business Partners" told our Labor Rep that "so many RNs in a room is intimidating." Well, maybe to him. But the nurse managers MANAGE all of us, so it shouldn't be all that intimidating if they're doing their job right and want to listen and make change.

Please, no one tell me to hear Sutter's side. Don't tell me that it's expensive to hire staff. It's morally wrong to have someone die when conditions are known to be less than what the state demands. We are writing up exceptions and letting everyone know. It's not about their feelings v. our feelings. Sometimes, there is a WRONG side. We have a moral obligation to do no wrong, not just take the patients' money (or MediCal).

I don't want patients to suffer, but apparently Sutter thinks $$$ comes first. Which is crazy, given all the overtime they end up paying us, anyway. I am going to file an affadavit and stand before the National Labor Relations Board, if needed, regarding the committee meeting fiasco. It's harrassment and unacceptable.

Sutter is trying to break our resolve to stand together. They won't do it. Stay tuned.


Anonymous said...

I'm really sorry they are worrying about profits over mothers having babies. Seems to very wrong to me as dad always put the patient first - regardless if he would be paid or not that wasn't the point of being a doctor. Whatever time his patients needed him - was when he was there - 3 am or 10 pm - at home or hospital delivery (yah it was long ago when doctors still did home deliveries) - but he was always there and wouldn't return until all was well with mother and babe.

Stay strong...

Anonymous said...

Ms M I hope you are making some progress with this. I'm staying tuned and I hope you're okay and I miss you online and maybe you are very busy doing fantastic things for organized labor just like you do fantastic things for adoptee rights and support.
Love and kisses, chloemarie