Garfield Medical Center nurses launch 10-day strike – Daily News

on Aug18
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Rachel Matteson is used to being short on supplies.

As a nurse in Garfield Medical Center’s intensive care unit, she sometimes has to improvise on the fly. That happened recently as she was preparing a patient for a procedure.

“I had a critical patient who needed multiple blood transfusions, but it required a special kind of tubing that we didn’t have on hand,” the 36-year-old North Hollywood resident said. “So I had to invent something. I tried a number of different solutions, and that took about half an hour.”

Her fix worked and the patient pulled through. But it left her sweating.

The nurses, represented by SEIU Local 121RN, say they’ve repeatedly raised their concerns throughout contract negotiations, which began in January. The hospital said the two sides have reached agreement on most of the outstanding contract issues. (Photo courtesy of SEIU Local 121RN)

That kind of scenario, coupled with complaints of chronic understaffing and inadequate security, prompted the Monterey Park hospital’s 350 nurses to launch a 10-day strike Friday, Aug. 18.

The nurses, represented by SEIU Local 121RN, say they’ve repeatedly raised their concerns throughout contract negotiations, which began in January. The medical center is owned by AHMC Healthcare, which owns nine California healthcare facilities, including five in the Los Angeles area.

Nurses have also complained in the past of being shifted to other areas of the hospital where they may not have the familiarity and training needed to provide adequate patient care. On Friday, union said that issue appears to have been addressed in negotiations.

In a statement issued Friday, Garfield management said it hired qualified replacement nurses to pick up the slack during the walkout.

“We have been bargaining with the union since January and have reached agreement on most of the outstanding contract issues,” the hospital said, adding that “no nurse at our hospital is ever assigned to care for a patient whom they are not qualified to treat.”

Nurses, including Christina Smith, also are calling for increased security at Garfield.

“I was hit in the face with a patient’s cell phone,” said Smith, who has been a registered nurse at the facility for 35 years. “She hit me as hard as she could and knocked me to the ground. It was very traumatic, both physically and mentally.”

Garfield said it has stepped up security measures at the hospital.

“This includes providing metal detectors in our ED entrances and lobby to be used when admitting patients suffering a mental health crisis and training staff in workplace violence prevention,” management said.

Garfield acknowledged that the nationwide nursing shortage has impacted virtually every hospital, including Garfield, but said it has made “great strides” in hiring nurses by offering generous sign-on bonuses and holding multiple job fairs.

Still, nurses say it hasn’t been enough.

Jennifer Huynh, a former ER nurse at Garfield, said she was sometimes forced to provide longer-term care for patients because of chronic understaffing.

“My specialty is to treat people coming into the ER,” the 32-year-old Alhambra resident said recently. “But they would sometimes end up staying for several days because there weren’t enough nurses and nursing assistants. My job was not specialized in taking care of patients for that long.”

Garfield said the union has rejected its proposed salary increase totaling nearly 21% over three years, which it says is competitive with salaries at similar hospitals in the area.

That proposed raise, the hospital said, would increase the average annual salary of a full-time nurse from around $102,700 to approximately $125,500 over the three-year period.

Complaints of understaffing have also cropped up at Prime Centinela Hospital Medical Center in Inglewood, Cedars-Sinai Marina del Rey Hospital, Kaiser facilities throughout Southern California, West Anaheim Medical Center, and several LA County nursing homes, among other medical centers.



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