Hospital Unions Held Press Conference, Demanded St Joe’s Address ‘Staffing Crisis’

First Ward City Council member Leslie Castellano, NUHW representative and Saint Joseph's employee Alan McCloskey hold banners with others in front of St. Joseph Hospital in Eureka.

Protesters hold banners with others in front of St. Joseph Hospital in Eureka Thursday afternoon. [Photo by Ryan Hutson]

Along Harrison Avenue in Eureka at the entrance to the Saint Joseph’s Hospital, dozens of hospital staff including nurses and technicians protested recent layoffs on Thursday.

Allen McCloskey, a lab technician at St. Joseph's Hospital as well as the Union Steward with NUHW speaks with press. in January 2019 protest

Allen McCloskey, a lab technician at St. Joseph’s Hospital as well as the Union Steward with NUHW speaks with press. [Photo by Ryan Hutson]

This was the first protest of 2019, following up on a year of previous protests, City Council meetings and press conferences where the California Nurses Association (called CNA) representatives as well as National Union of Healthcare Workers (called NUHW) representatives and union members have attempted to find resolution to what they are calling an ongoing and self-inflicted staffing crisis within the Catholic-owned hospital group.

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.

Eureka First Ward City Council member Leslie Castellano joins in the protest.

Eureka First Ward City Council member Leslie Castellano joined in the protest. [Photo by Ryan Hutson]

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.

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22 comments

  • 🕯If you look at this unbiased then you can see what has happened. Did new owners in one way or another take over operations at this hospital? Or is it happening to all Hospitals connected?

    • Willie, although it still carries the name of St. Joe’s, it hasn’t been under Catholic Healthcare West for quite a while now. Providence took it over, and they have done the same thing at other hospitals they acquired.

  • Yaaay Obamacare. Can’t wait til the government has total control over health care, mmmmm double plus good.

    • 🕯So your hoping for “not my potus ” care. You did say government and the government is ran by the GOP,right? Well at least 2/3rds.

    • Poster formerly known as Matt

      This has nothing to do with the Affordable Care Act

      • Oh yes it does. That law changed many rules that created additional expenses, restructured reimbursements that created many extra hoops for hospitals to jump through. Like many regulations, these extra expenses were very hard for small population areas to recoup.

        I suspect that any area with a high public insurance demographic as much as 30 percent of hospital costs are directly related to meeting regulations.

        • “If the people let the government decide for them what foods they eat and what medicine they take, their bodies will soon be in a sorry state as the souls who live under tyranny.” Jefferson.

  • The hospital needs to get rid of people like Christian Hill. People like him are there to make money not caring about patient needs, or staff. If this continues to get worse St. Joes will cease to exist. A number of folks I know are going out of the area for their health care, and I sure don’t blame them. It needs to be fixed now!!!

    • 🕯Is he an administrator at the hospital?

    • 🕯Everything I could read about him was good. So can you explain your point of view?

      • Willie, I don’t care for anybody that tries to defend St. Joe’s policy’s regarding the firing of much needed nurses, house keepers, etc. The administration seems to be consumed with making money in spite of leaving patients with much less care. One article I read several months ago stated they had made 17 million dollars in profit last year. The people in and around Eureka deserve a much better level of one-on-one care. I hope the problems can be resolved, and the nurses and other necessary staff will be given their jobs back. I appreciate your question, and hope my answer helps.

    • When I asked a couple of hospital employees if the people laid would be transferred to fill the new positions, I was told that the laid off people did not have the required certification to currently get jobs in the hospital. Bodies are not the only issue but what those bodies are legally able to do.

      • Wonder how all the nurses and X-ray techs got their jobs in the first place if they did not have the required certification? That does not make any sense to me at all. How were they hired?

  • I had to be flown down for care at St Jo’s earlier this month. I got top notch care and accommodation and food and all of it in a really nice environment on the ICU/PCU floor. Absolutely top flight competent nurses and doctors the whole way through my three days in the Progressive Care Unit.

    So I tend to think management would not make cuts that would impact patients and the rest of the staff negatively. I am, and always have been, 100% pro labor, and especially for nurses’ unions, but there is a possibility this might be a tad over the top.

    If we’re just talking caregivers there to keep patients impervious to their own safety from getting out of bed, they could very reasonably expect to become independent contractors instead of salaried employees.

    • 🕯Nicely thought out and very good idea. I couldn’t tell from the article if it is more than just the nightly caregivers or more. Sure I feel for them ,there the guardian angels of the sick at night,but this is a rural community and we are in some pretty weird financial times. People are unsure, so they make cost effective decisions that dont always sit well with everyone.

  • My dr, who was head of obstetrics, quit because the Catholic hospital banned tubal ligation.
    Religion should not dictate medicine.
    St Joe’s just botched a medical procedure on me. I will never go to them again for any reason.
    Fair wages and improved staffing are basic. When the “spokes person” dismisses “union rhetoric” they give the entire organization away as being anti-labor. The hospital cannot function without you.
    STRIKE

    • Or expose the rhetoric as incomplete self serving statements.

      My experience with St. Joseph has been mixed. Some employees are very caring and some were the opposite.

  • The truth is, the union is speaking the truth. I’ve had sick friends and family members in St. Joe’s in 2018, and you start to notice things after spending so much time there. 1. On three separate occasions I pushed the call light on behalf of a family member who couldn’t, and at least 15 minutes went by before anyone responded. Luckily these weren’t emergencies, but medical attention was needed. 2. My family member fell after getting out of bed to use the restroom. The bed alarms were on and no one knew it even happened/reported it until the next day. 3. The wrong meals were delivered on at least 2 occasions, for someone on a medically restricted diet. 4. Imaging was not done in a timely manner due to understaffing. We know you can’t get through if you call the scheduling number. 5. A nurse made a medication mistake because she seemed to be very, very overwhelmed. I don’t fault her because she seemed to be doing more than one job. The planned procedure had to be postponed an extra day because of the mistake. Now, having said that, I do know that most of the employees try really hard and would provide better care if they could. Yes, there were some bad apples, but most if the staff are caring and want to do a good job. I didn’t have 100% bad experiences and some visits were exceptional in quality; however, the understaffing issue was always clearly present. I absolutely thank everyone including management who actually care, we know you are working with what you have. Please staff and compensate your hospital in OUR community appropriately! We have nowhere else to go and it’s really wrong to use that to abuse your employees and community. You can afford it, I know how much my insurance company paid you last year, I read my EOB’s. Oh and question…If you hired all of these jobs last year, why didn’t you laterally move your current employees first????!!!

    • The employees are not at fault. This is an administrative issue and is all about profit. Odd from an institution (the Catholic church) which is supposed to be a charitable institution.

  • I’m not on board with an elected official being a part of any protest. This is demonstrating clear personal bias. An elected official should – and I say “should” because clearly they don’t – represent the sentiments of the majority of the citizens in the area they serve (hence, “representative”).

    Leslie has no business being there representing the city or ward 1.

    • 🕯She is still a representative of the people one way or another. My wife chose alternative medicine instead of chemotherapy and has been treated like sh!t because of it. But because it has worked now I make it.

  • Blackberry Amnesia

    In a typical corporation hospital these days, one will encounter Administrators who are incapable of telling the truth, human resources “professionals” who are paid to abuse, harass, and exploit staff members while failing to tell the truth about anything at all, department managers whose job it is to assign random and outrageous schedules while flooring the least number of trained, competent, and licensed persons, while lying to them ceaselessly… The modern Hospital is a study in ignoring patient and employee safety while focusing on cost goals exclusively and burying the truth under gaslighting and a culture of abuse!

    If the average hospital corporation could manage and negotiate effectively, pay decent salaries and offer safe and adequately staffed working conditions, there would be no need for unions. Unions themselves are a vehicle for the delivery of money for the unions, and, union hospitals offer only slightly improved conditions while creating an environment of constant conflict between management and labor!

    In the endless battle between corporate profits and safe and effective staffing, the patients are the losers! The service provided at the average hospital has been eroded, over time, to the point where the expectations of the patients have been lowered extremely, and to where the condition of the patients in the beds is several degrees worse, since patients tend to stay away longer due to the conflicts, poor conditions and high costs!

    In the case of St Joseph’s Eureka, many of the patients represent the poorest economic groups, and the patient’s conditions tend to be more severe. So, we end up with patients with serious conditions being cared for in a severely understaffed facility, and, with staff members who have poor morale and who are being mistreated by their employer!

    This is all not a good example for efficacious healthcare, and, to my mind, represents a situation in which many persons will flee to other areas when in need of hospitalization.

    “In conflict” is not a place that you want your hospital employees to exist! I would not work for, or be a patient of St Joseph’s Eureka or at Redwood Hospital. As a hospital employee, I recommend that the community become involved in guiding St Josephs to resolve their staffing issues immediately. Unfair employment processes and poor quality staffing choices will not bring favorable healthcare outcomes to your community, and, constant staff/labor conflict represents a very poor business model.

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