Calif. Hospitals Brace For Strike

Wednesday, July 5th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Ten northern California hospitals are bracing for a planned one-day strike by thousands of workers who say they are so underpaid and overworked that patient care is being jeopardized.

The threatened walk-off comes at a tough time for area hospitals: 1,730 nurses at two Stanford hospitals are in their fourth week of a strike and five anesthesiologists at an Oakland hospital resigned last week in a dispute over pay and other issues.

The proposed Thursday strike by about 4,000 receptionists, food service workers, nursing assistants and respiratory therapists has forced some hospitals — five Sutter Health hospitals, three Catholic Healthcare West hospitals and two independent facilities — to cut some services, particularly elective procedures.

``With the nurses' strike affecting the other hospitals, the fact that the union would target 10 more hospitals just confounds me,'' said Bill Gleeson, a spokesman for Sacramento-based Sutter Health. ``They're abandoning patients for a picnic and parade. That's not just uncaring and reckless, it's tragic.''

The hospital workers, represented by the Service Employees International Union Local 250, claim the one-day strike is no more reckless than the reduced patient care that has resulted from years of mergers, staff cutbacks and profit-seeking by the hospitals.

``Staffing has decreased dramatically over the years. Their normal operation is to eliminate departments and lay off staff. It's all about money to them,'' said Local 250 President Sal Rosselli. ``That's the real danger to patient care.''

Sutter Health and Catholic Healthcare West officials said the unions are unfairly demanding lifetime job security, but the union said its chief aim is to give its employees a voice in staffing decisions.


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