USC Keck and Norris Cancer Center nurses to protest understaffing – Daily News

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Registered nurses at Keck Medical Center of USC and USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center will hold a car caravan Saturday to protest years of alleged understaffing.

More than 200 cars are expected in the caravan, which will circle from Keck Medical Center to the Norris cancer center.

The workers, represented by California Nurses Association/National Nurses United, have been demanding the hospital develop a plan to hire enough nurses to address the ongoing staffing crisis as well as improvements to wages and ben­efits.

Addressing those issues, they say, will aid in the recruitment and retention of qualified and experienced nurses.

Beverly Schrage, a chemotherapy-certified nurse at the Norris facility, said inadequate staffing has been a continual problem.

“There is supposed to be a resource nurse to cover for us during breaks, but many days we don’t have that so we’re not getting the breaks we’re legally entitled to.” the 60-year-old Duarte resident said. “They’re also using travel nurses from outside who don’t necessarily know our patient population.”

Both of those situations undermine patient safety and care, nurses say.

In a statement issued Friday, Keck Medicine of USC stressed that Saturday’s protest will not be a strike and that hospital operations will continue as usual.

“We look forward to continuing to bargain in good faith with CNA regarding the terms and conditions of the nurses’ employment with Keck Medicine,” the administration said.

Nurses say USC administrators have ignored their concerns and are proposing to eliminate nurses’ and nurse practitioners’ legal right to act collectively and communicate with the public and regulatory agencies about concerns that may impact patient care and safety.

Tiffany Vo, a registered nurse at Keck Medical Center, agreed that staffing at the facilities is razor-thin. She said the nurses are also looking to ensure their wages keep pace with inflation.

“We expect wages to meet the standard for our industry so we can care for our families,” she said.

A cut to retirement benefits

Vo also expressed concern about her retirement benefits.

“That’s a big issue,” she said. “We dedicate so much time to this institution to make it work and they decided to cut our retirement. It was supposed to be temporary at first, but now they don’t want to give it back.”

Keck’s Medicine’s statement didn’t address wages or retirement, as both sides are still in negotiations. But the administration said its COVID-19 policies and safeguards have been comprehensive for both patients and employees.

“Through our Care for the Caregiver program, we have provided frontline workers with more than 32,000 hotel stays to provide quality rest between shifts while keeping their loved ones safe,” Keck said. “Our processes are continually evaluated and have successfully kept staff COVID-19 exposure rates significantly lower than the general public.”

California Nurses Association/National Nurses United represents more than 1,300 registered nurses and nurse practitioners at Keck Hospital of USC and USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Hospital.

Keck Medical Center and the Norris center aren’t the only medical facilities alleging understaffing. Kaiser Permanente workers held a protest last month at Los Angeles Medical Center, saying management was providing scant support to overworked employees during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Scott Casanover, general counsel and senior vice president of government affairs for West Coast University, said late last year that California’s nursing population isn’t keeping pace with the escalating demands of COVID-19 – a situation that has been exacerbated by an aging workforce.

“Actually, 25,000 eligible nursing students are turned away every year because there are not enough openings in nursing programs,” he said.

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