Hospital Unions Held Press Conference, Demanded St Joe’s Address ‘Staffing Crisis’
According to a press release issued by the National Union of Healthcare Workers, “St. Joseph management laid off two caregivers last week.”
Two layoff notices added to the twenty-five layoffs issued by the private Catholic hospital group late last year. In October of 2018, California Nurses Association supported a call on local Eureka City Council members to hold a town hall addressing the concerns. As of yet, there is no public meeting addressing the issue on the calendar.As a result of this development, in addition to months of striking and attempts to negotiate the current plan to eliminate care attendant positions, national and local unions are again rallying in Eureka.
Christian Hill, spokesperson for St. Joseph Health, characterized the protests as “union rhetoric. He released a statement saying, “The facts are that we hired more than 234 caregivers and recruited many new physicians and providers in 2018, and continue to serve as an ethical, prominent employer offering quality jobs and robust salaries and benefits to a highly skilled workforce. We also established new positions and programs in 2018 to better support vital, quality health services on the North Coast.”
National Union of Healthcare Workers, local representative Renee Saucedo, argued that the majority of layoffs have been issued to hospital workers who are most directly involved in handling patient care, including technicians and bedside caregivers.
This would be the second issuance of layoff notices since a staffing emergency was declared by the workers organizations at the hospital.
In October of 2018, the hospital laid off 25 caregivers including specialty caregivers designated to sit with patients who were deemed at risk for one reason or another. The California Department of Public Health cited Provident St Joseph Hospital for using restraints on bed-ridden patients, rather than employing bedside caregivers.
“We could not afford to lose any more caregivers,” said Kari Helgeson, a radiology technician in a press release issued by the protesters. “We have been cut to the bone, and patients are suffering. Providence St. Joseph had no reason to eliminate these jobs other than pure greed.”
“We live in a community that values open dialog and debate, but Providence St. Joseph is trying to impose its top-down corporate culture on us,” said Kellie Shaner, a monitor technician in the same press release. “But we will stay vigilant to protect our health care in our community and to restore our voice in our community hospital.”
Local nurses represented by the statewide union goliath, the California Nurses Association, are in support of the rally and the plans for ongoing community dialogue, including town hall events where the public is urged to attend.
Renee Saucedo stated prior to the scheduled press conference that the union has been working with some local city and county officials to accommodate a town hall regarding the concerns of the local healthcare decline.
She said that there are currently plans in the works that are far supported by at least one Eureka city council member, Kim Bergel, as well as at least two of Humboldt County Board of Supervisors, Mike Wilson and Stephen Madrone.
Saucedo explained that the local unions and staff affected by the “staffing crisis” look forward to meeting in good faith to discuss future plans for staffing local hospitals, and are encouraged to see these plans to communicate going forward.