Before my father-in-law passed away recently, he spent several months at Kindred Hospital Westminster, where he was under the care of several amazing nurses. However, he would not be surprised to learn some of those nurses plan to hold a one-day strike on Sept. 3, having once remarked, "This place gives me the heebie-jeebies."
Amazingly, it is not the rampant spread of heebie-jeebies that sparked the California Nurses Association/National Nurses United strike announcement on Monday. The unions cite poor working conditions, chronically short staffing, lack of adequate meal and rest period breaks, a high turn-over rate and the attrition of experienced RNs due to all of the above at the long-term acute care facility.
That's what caused 150 Kindred nurses to vote overwhelmingly to affiliate with the California Nurses Association in December 2013. And they've received some official backup to their concerns since then: This past April, the California Department of Public Health cited the hospital for patient care violations in planning and implementing patient care, staffing plans for nursing, infection control, respiratory care, pharmaceutical services and general safety and maintenance.
The striking nurses say working without a contract is not helping when it comes to patient care. "Management has delayed an agreement for 20 months and during that time, the poor conditions that led us to organize in the first place, have continued to erode," says Janet Williams, an RN in the Medical/Surgical Unit who has worked there for more than 14 years, says in a union statement. "We feel we have no choice but to strike to ensure that these issues are addressed so we can deliver the highest quality of care for our patients all year long."
Brooke Saunders, Kindred Hospital Westminster's chief executive, could not be reached for comment.
Kentucky-based Kindred Healthcare made more than $15 million in profits from its hospitals in Westminster and Brea over the past year, the unions claim.
Contract talks are scheduled to resume today.