Dozens of registered nurses and their supporters could be seen wearing union red, chanting and waving outside of San Ramon Regional Medical Center on Friday, joining in on a one-day strike seen at eight Tenet Healthcare hospitals throughout California.
As bargaining talks continue between Tenet officials and union negotiators, registered nurses went on the one-day strike in order to urge management to improve the recruitment and retention of experienced nurses and ensure optimal patient care, according to officials from the California Nurses Association and National Nurses United.
“We're here for patient care. And we’re in support of the thousands of other Tenet nurses in California that are striking today to get a good fair contract so that we can provide the best care possible for our patients,” said Gina Rittenhouse, a registered nurse from San Ramon Regional and one of the more than 6,500 registered nurses who work at the Tenet hospitals who are going out on strike in Florida, Arizona and California.
Tenet Healthcare officials responded to the strike, informing patients that hospitals are still operating and that replacement nurses, in addition to other caregivers, are providing quality care throughout the protest.
“We have been negotiating in good faith with the union to reach a new contract. We are disappointed that the union is taking this strike action, which in our view is not constructive or necessary. We have made progress toward a new contract and will continue to negotiate in good faith in hopes of resolution. We value our relationship with all our employees, and we are committed to resolving these contract negotiations,” Tenet officials said in a statement.
In addition to San Ramon Regional, California Tenet facilities in Modesto, Turlock, Los Alamitos, Palm Springs, Joshua Tree, Templeton and San Luis Obispo joined in on the strike.
“I am honored to have worked as a nurse for 25 years, and share with my colleagues a deep commitment to advocating for my patients,” Ginny Gary, a registered nurse in the intensive care unit at Los Alamitos Medical Center, said in a statement. “We know that to give the best care it is very important for nurses to get rest and meal breaks. When the hospital has adequate staffing it is more likely that nurses can take their meal and rest breaks and return to work alert and nourished.”
One key sticking point for strikers is ensuring that nurses receive adequate rest and meal breaks while working, arguing that adequate breaks reduce fatigue and the possibility of medical errors, union officials said in a statement.
According to union officials, in 2018 Tenet documented that at eight hospitals nurses reported missing more than 57,000 breaks, a 28% increase compared to 2016 figures.
Union officials also criticized Tenet’s use of the on-call nurse system, saying the company commonly uses the system for regularly scheduled procedures and non-emergency situations -- as opposed to the intended purpose of the on call system, which union officials say is supposed to be used for unexpected and emergency conditions.