USC nurses to stage 2-day strike starting Tuesday, July 13 – Daily News

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Registered nurses at Keck Hospital of USC and USC Norris Cancer Hospital plan to stage a two-day strike this week to protest alleged understaffing they claim has impacted patient care and left nurses worn out.

The action, scheduled for Tuesday, July 13 and Wednesday, July 14, comes on the heels of a June strike authorization vote in which nearly all nurses voted to authorize a walkout. They are represented by the California Nurses Association/National Nurses United.

RNs will picket outside the front entrance of Keck Hospital of USC at various times throughout both days and a virtual rally will be held Wednesday on the California Nurses Association’s Facebook page.

Keck Medicine of USC disputes the union’s claim, saying staffing levels have remained higher than required.

But Joshua Duarte, a nurse at Keck Hospital of USC, said patient care is being undermined.

“We don’t want to strike, but our patients’ safety is jeopardized by chronic short staffing and the hospital’s excessive reliance on outside contractors without the appropriate skill mix to provide safe care,” Duarte said in a statement. “USC needs to do better.”

The workers say they have been in negotiations for a new contract since November 2020 with little to no movement on key issues.

They are seeking a guarantee that nurses with appropriate skills will be given priority over outside contractors who may have less training. They also want to ensure operating room nurses have appropriate rest periods between shifts, and they are seeking adequate rotation for nurses in infectious disease units.

Those factors, they say, will help ensure safe patient care and improve nurse retention.

“USC claims they have no problems hiring nurses, so I have to ask myself why our hospital is chronically short-staffed,” said Michael Simonton, an RN in the Intensive Care Unit at USC Norris Cancer Hospital.

Keck Medicine responds

Keck Medicine of USC acknowledged that health care systems are facing a shortage of nursing and other clinical staff nationwide, but said understaffing is not an issue at its facilities.

“Our staffing levels are regularly audited by the California Department of Public Health, and these audits confirm that even during the height of the pandemic, our staffing levels were consistently higher than required,” the hospital said in a statement.

Annette Sy, chief nursing officer for Keck Medical Center of USC, added that about 5% of the nurses are contract nurses.

“Contract nurses undergo a rigorous screening process before they are hired and receive the same training, orientation and education as any other nurse in our organization,” Sy said via email. “In fact, many of these nurses go on to accept full-time positions with the health system.”

Keck management said both sides reached a tentative agreement in June that expands wages and benefits while also enhancing patient care and safety.

“We believe the strike vote is a result of poor communication by CNA about the positive points of the contract to Keck Medicine nurses,” the hospital said. “A re-vote would produce a beneficial outcome for everyone.”

Keck said hospital and clinic operations will remain open and fully staffed with doctors, nurses and other clinical professionals during the strike.

The California Nurses Association represents nearly 1,400 nurses at Keck Hospital of USC and USC Norris Cancer Hospital.

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