Santa Rosa Memorial hospital is fully prepared to continue meeting the needs of patients and their families during a two-day strike planned by the Staff Nurses' Association (SNA). The SNA union, which represents 642 registered nurses employed at Santa Rosa Memorial, has notified the hospital of its intent to strike starting at 5 a.m. Thursday, May 23, 2013, and ending at 5 a.m. Saturday, May 25, 2013.
The planned strike follows three earlier strikes conducted by the union – in October and November 2012, and again in January 2013. The union's action is related to unresolved issues at the bargaining table, including proposed changes in nurses' on-call pay, night shift differential and part- time nurses' contributions to their medical benefits.
"While we respect our employees' rights to strike, these recurring strikes with little or no progress at the bargaining table are disappointing. We believe every means of reaching mutual agreement through negotiations should be exhausted, so that our nurses, hospital and community can see these issues resolved," said Debra Miller, Vice President of Human Resources for St. Joseph Health in Sonoma County, which owns and operates Santa Rosa Memorial. "As we've proven during recent strikes, the union's decision to conduct a fourth strike will in no way distract from our commitment to keep serving patients, their loved ones and the healthcare partners throughout the region who rely on us."
Santa Rosa Memorial has contracted with an agency to provide highly qualified and experienced replacement nurses to ensure uninterrupted patient care, which is standard industry practice during a nursing strike. Because of the threat of overlapping nursing strikes at other Northern California hospitals, the agency through which these replacement nurses are being hired required a five-day minimum contractual commitment to secure their services. This means the replacement nurses would be working at Santa Rosa Memorial starting tomorrow morning, Thursday, May 23, and concluding the morning of Tuesday, May 28.
Most Santa Rosa Memorial nurses who choose to strike would return to work Tuesday, May 28, or on their next regularly scheduled shift thereafter.
St. Joseph Health will temporarily close one of its Urgent Care centers – in Windsor – and will treat all local patients Thursday and Friday out of its Santa Rosa and Rohnert Park Urgent Cares. The Santa Rosa Urgent Care will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily; Rohnert Park will be open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily. All three Urgent Cares will be open, as usual, starting Saturday morning, May 25, and striking nurses may be called back to staff those centers as needed.
Like providers across the country, St. Joseph Health continues to seek ways to control and reduce the costs of patient care as health reform dramatically alters the healthcare landscape. Along with seeking to meet the needs of consumers and employers for more affordable care, St. Joseph Health also is preparing for an ongoing decline in reimbursements, heightened competition among health insurers, and increasing regulatory demands. Given these challenges, St. Joseph Health hospitals must balance a longstanding commitment to fair, just wages and benefits for all employees with cost-saving measures that promote the hospitals' fiscal stability.
"We are committed to providing our RNs and all our staff just wages and benefits," Miller said. "Yet we, like other U.S. employers, also must find ways to de-escalate significant increases in payroll and benefits expenses. With health reform's impact on our reimbursement and local employers looking increasingly to lower their health insurance costs, we must find ways to save while continuing to fairly compensate our highly skilled RNs. We continue to hope that hard work at the bargaining table will yield mutually agreeable compromises that everyone can support."
The Staff Nurses' Association's contract with Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital expired September 30, 2012. The next bargaining session between the union and hospital representative is scheduled for June 6, 2013.
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A NOTE TO OUR COMMUNITY: Passersby who wish to express their support for those who are striking or picketing are asked, please, to refrain from loud noises including honking horns as they pass Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital, out of consideration for critically ill patients who need a restful environment to heal. We also ask this out of courtesy for the hospital's residential neighbors.