Hospital affirms uninterrupted, high quality care for patients
(Santa Rosa, CA, January 12, 2013) Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital, Sonoma County's largest hospital at 278 beds and the region's Level II trauma center, is fully prepared to continue meeting the needs of patients and their families in the event of a two-day strike planned by the Staff Nurses' Association (SNA). The SNA union, which represents 653 registered nurses employed at Santa Rosa Memorial, has notified the hospital of its intent to strike starting at 5 a.m. Monday, January 14, 2013, and ending at 5 a.m. Wednesday, January 16, 2013.
The union's strike notification is related to ongoing collective bargaining negotiations, which continued this month between hospital and SNA representatives with the help of a federal mediator. The impending strike marks the third time in four months that SNA has conducted or called for a multi-day strike.
"As we demonstrated throughout the union's strikes in October and November, we are committed to continuing to provide high-quality, safe, compassionate care and service without interruption," said Debra Miller, Vice President of Human Resources for St. Joseph Health in Sonoma County, which owns and operates the hospital. "We're disappointed the SNA is choosing to strike again while our focus remains on patient care and mutually beneficial progress at the bargaining table. But the union's decision will not distract from our commitment to serving patients, their loved ones, and the health care partners throughout the region who rely on us."
Santa Rosa Memorial has again 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. The agency through which these temporary replacement nurses are being hired required a four-day minimum contractual commitment to secure their services. This means the replacement nurses would be working at the hospital for four days, starting the first day of the strike. Most nurses who choose to strike would return to work Friday, January 18, 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 Monday and Tuesday (January 14-15) 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 Wednesday morning, January 16, 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 is also 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 hospital's fiscal stability.
Unresolved issues with the SNA nurses' union relate primarily to wages and benefits, including call pay, shift differential and RNs' contributions to their employer-provided health insurance.
"We highly value our registered nurses, and respect their right to strike. At the same time, we believe striking at a health care facility should be undertaken only after all other avenues of reaching compromise have been exhausted," Miller said. "We look forward to getting back to the bargaining table in hopes of reaching a mutually acceptable agreement that everyone can support."
Bargaining between the SNA and Santa Rosa Memorial negotiation teams is scheduled to resume January 22, with additional bargaining sessions set for February 4 and February 5.
NOTE: 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 the hospital, out of consideration for critically ill patients who need a restful environment to heal, as well as for the hospital's residential neighbors. Thank you.