Thousands of registered nurses at Alta Bates Summit Medical Center in Berkeley and 10 other Sutter Health hospitals struck today to protest proposed cuts in benefits and patient care.
Talks between the company and the California Nurses Association stalled nearly a year ago. This is the fourth strike the union has called at Sutter hospitals in the last eight months and the second since May 1.
Sutter has asked for concessions including cuts to sick days, increases to out-of-pocket health care coverage and measures such as increased overtime, which the union believes harms patients.
"Sutter is trying to undermine our ability to treat patients," CNA spokesman Charles Idelson said.
Sutter posted on its website this week, "From six-figure average wages for full-time nurses to an employer-paid pension and other quality benefits, Sutter Health hospitals understand that providing high-quality care for patients starts with taking great care of nurses -- and all employees."
That didn't go far with Idelson.
"Stop worrying about your bottom line and start worrying about patients," he said, calling the health network's figures grossly inflated. Sutter has made $4 billion in profits since 2005, he said.
Nurses at Petaluma Valley Hospital, which is part of the St. Joseph Health System, are picketing in solidarity.
Rallies were scheduled throughout the day in Berkeley, and at Alta Bates Summit in Oakland, Eden Medical Center in Castro Valley, Novato Community Hospital, Sutter Delta in Antioch, Sutter Solano in Vallejo and Mills-Peninsula Health Services hospitals in Burlingame and San Mateo. Other affected hospitals include San Leandro Hospital and Sutter Lakeside.
Both sides will return to the bargaining table Thursday at Alta Bates Summit offices in Oakland.
Idelson said four Sutter hospitals, including Sutter Medical Center of Santa Rosa, an agreement was struck in the past month.
As in the past, the company is expected to lock its nurses out for five days. Striking nurses will return to work on June 18.
-- Bay City News Service