St. Joe’s Nurses Complain Their Employers Aren’t Fixing a Broken Payroll System Nor Staffing Shortages

Registered nurses at Providence St. Joseph Hospital in Eureka participated in an informational picket on August 11 in front the hospita

St. Joe’s nurses picket in front of the hospital on August 11. [Photo by Ryan Hutson]

Registered nurses at Providence St. Joseph Hospital in Eureka participated in an informational picket on August 11 in front their workplace to “protest the administration’s refusal to address RNs’ deep concerns about chronic unsafe staffing and to demand that Providence correct ongoing payroll errors resulting in missing pay for hundreds of nurses,” announced California Nurses Association/National Nurses United (CNA/NNU).  So far, according to Union representatives and their members, no grand solution or effective mitigation efforts have been discussed or implemented. However, according to administrators, solutions are being worked on in order to address outstanding payments to employees.  

Although problems with their pay was concerning, multiple nurses expressed concern about the low staffing levels. One RN who was holding a picket sign at the protest told us, “The situation here is untenable. There’s no CNAs to help, there’s no break nurses, and if you’ve been a nurse long enough, you just say, ‘hey – I’m not gonna take this anymore’ and you go… .” 

Three pay cycles have come and gone without solutions for many staff who haven’t received the full amounts on their paychecks. Nor have they received the recently-offered $500 “mitigation payments,” according to members and CNA representatives. Local RNs and ancillary staff have warned that the system is failing and could collapse unless Providence can quickly find a way to make good on overdue paychecks and simultaneously hire additional nurses and ancillary staff to make the wheels turn more smoothly.  

In a press release from the nurses’ union, CNA Representative Lesley Ester, who is also a RN in the Rehab unit at St. Joseph Hospital Eureka, states, “[A]fter years of asking us to work through a pandemic with insufficient staffing and equipment shortages Providence has decided to reward their ‘Heroes’ with more short staffing, missed breaks, and unpaid wages. It is past time for Providence to step up and invest in nurses and correctly pay us for our work.”

Lesley Ester, in January of 2019, seen holding a sign reading “Patients before profit… we love our community” at an informational union picket At the entrance to St. Joseph Hospital prior to Providence updating the signage in front. [Photo by Ryan Hutson]

Lesley Ester, in January of 2019, seen holding a sign reading “Patients before profit… we love our community” at an informational union picket At the entrance to St. Joseph Hospital prior to Providence updating the signage in front. [Photo by Ryan Hutson]

As nurses and other hospital workers filtered in and out of the picket line Thursday, either joining the rally after completing a 12-hour shift, or finding the time during a seldom-available break from a shift, workers on the street echoed the frustrations articulated in the press release regarding the botched payroll system, which has been miscalculating pay for hundreds of staff members in the area. The statement from the union reads, “[T]he errors are ongoing and include the most recent pay period, ending August 5. Hundreds of nurses have been affected by these errors, which include missing pay for shifts, incorrect pay rates, incorrect deductions, and errors in paid time off. Since the new time-keeping system was implemented, Providence has received more than 77,000 HR requests systemwide from employees.”

The CNA press release announcing the informational picket on Thursday explained, “[I]n addition to the unsafe working conditions that jeopardize patient safety, nurses have been contending with egregious payroll errors since June 19, 2022, when Providence implemented a new payroll system, touted as an upgrade to the previous system.”  

$500 MITIGATION PAYMENTS VS. CORRECTED PAYCHECKS

Providence offered an explanation as to what is going wrong with the newly outsourced payroll system, saying via press release, “[T]here are some data configuration adjustments that need to be made to account for the nuances in the pay structure at various Providence locations.”  Providence’s organizational communication team acknowledges the importance of paying employees properly, not just because it is the law, stated, “[P]roviding accurate and timely pay is one of the most fundamental roles that Providence plays as an employer, and we take any discrepancies in paychecks or missed pay incredibly seriously. Our caregivers work selflessly to provide the care that our communities depend on, and we are deeply sorry that we have missed the mark for some individuals or that we created any kind of hardship or anxiety for caregivers and their families.” 

A retired registered nurse who previously worked at St. Joseph Hospital before Providence purchased the hospital group in 2018, Kathryn Donahue, came to show support for current staff.  [Video by Ryan Hutson]

As one of the largest employers in the county, Providence’s payroll mistakes have already begun to trickle down, affecting the ability of many healthcare professionals locally to pay bills or rent, shop for groceries, school supplies for children returning to class, buy gas for their vehicle, or use funds for summer fun.

We attended a zoom press conference hosted by the National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW) earlier in the week, after having received an email from Providence St Joseph Hospital’s Communications Director, Christian Hill, which made stated in part, “[W]e have identified a group of caregivers affected by this issue and are providing an immediate, one-time mitigation payment in the form of $500 for each of the 207 affected caregivers. This payment will be made today, Aug. 9, so caregivers have funds while the root cause is addressed.”  

According to local union representatives and other journalists in attendance, this was the first time any of them, including the staff who were on the call had been made aware of such an offer.  We forwarded the press release to other media outlets who asked for a copy, and quickly learned that the offer has not yet been broached with union representatives by the hospital. It is worth noting that when a staff member is represented by a union, the employer is obligated to negotiate pay issues with the union, and is not supposed to engage in what is considered an unfair labor practice, called “direct dealing,” because this may undermine the best interests of the union member/employee. 

During that press conference, one local staff member from Redwood Memorial Hospital called into question the hospital’s ability to maintain business as usual, saying to the digital gaggle of press, “[P]rovidence would be unable to run the hospital and the medical centers that our communities rely on without our caregivers, which is why we’re unable to understand how a multi-billion dollar company is unable to pay its workers fair wages for fair work in accordance with our contracts.” 

While the payment may be helpful for many who have had to choose between paying bills or buying food in the last month or more, it remains unclear what strings may be attached to this “mitigation” money.  One CNA union member expressed skepticism, saying, “I wonder if they will deduct it without telling us later on, or maybe it’s a loan we pay for later – I don’t want a gift, anyway – I WANT MY PAYCHECK!” 

Many staff members have asked, ‘Why can’t they just cut us a corrected paycheck on the spot?’  CNA representative Lesley Ester stated that this is not due to a lack of equipment, but rather, due to a lack of personnel with the ability to do the math.  She addressed the crowd with help of the megaphone, between supportive car honks passing behind her, “[T]hey can! They have a check printer in the HR office.  What they don’t have is somebody that can run the numbers to see how much they owe you.”  Ester continued, “So, on our first paycheck with Genesis on July 5 there were many unpaid people that did not receive paychecks – they were in the lobby cutting checks that day.”  She emphasized, “It is possible.”

 

CNA Representative and local RN Lesley Ester offered feedback regarding why Providence is not able to “just cut a new check” for those employees who have not been paid accurately in the last six weeks. [All photos and Video by Ryan Hutson]

Additionally, neither CNA or it’s fellow union, NUHW, have been able to confirm the receipt of any $500 “mitigation payment” as was publicized via the press release we received directly, forwarded from Providence on Tuesday, following the publishing of our article on the NUHW response to the payroll debacle.  Ester told us she checked her bank account, did not find the mitigation payment there, and had not been aware of any coworkers who had received said mitigation money.  Although she was aware of roughly 250 nurses needing a paycheck correction, she did not know who the 207 caregivers mentioned by Providence were specifically. 

Ester said, “Nobody knows who these 207 workers are, and nobody that I know has received a $500 payment.”  When asked for her personal thoughts as to this offer, which had not yet been communicated to union representatives at the time of the picket, Ester said simply, “Providence has not made clear what they mean by that statement. we have no idea what they meant by that statement.” Then the CNA rep added, “I do have a nurse that was behind thousands and thousands of dollars that was having trouble meeting her critical bills – we asked them to make an off-payroll cycle payment.  They promised us it would be made on Tuesday.  We waited, we waited, and that payment has still not been made.”  choosing her words carefully, Ester added, “I think Providence does not know what they are talking about.” 

In regard to the ongoing payroll fiasco that so many local caregivers are currently finding themselves saddled with, St. Joseph’s Communications Director Christian Hill had stated earlier this week via press release that some of the errors were resolved, while others needed more attention.  Having spoken with several caregivers who were not aware of any fixes being effective yet, reiterated that although the HR ‘ticket’ system may have reflected a “resolved” issue, no real action had been taken, or in some cases, an insufficient correction was made, but still left discrepancies to be hammered out.  

UNDERSTAFFING & ALLEGED VIOLATIONS OF STAFF-TO-PATIENT RATIOS 

In addition to raising the alarm about the payroll dysfunction and the outsourced management of the Human Resources departments for Humboldt’s Providence-run hospitals, CNA alleges that “Providence is violating California’s safe staffing law,” explaining in the press release that title 22 in California “mandates safe RN-to-patient staffing ratios.” 

The nurses contend that without enough hired hands to go around, the acute care facility is unable to function at full capacity. As the CNA union press release states, “RNs are being assigned too many patients to care for and as a result, they cannot respond to patients’ call lights in a timely way or take meal or rest breaks during their 12-hours shifts.”  

According to California’s Title 22, “In a hospital providing basic emergency medical services or comprehensive emergency medical services, the licensed nurse-to-patient ratio in an emergency department shall be 1:4 or fewer at all times that patients are receiving treatment. There shall be no fewer than two licensed nurses physically present in the emergency department when a patient is present.”  According to nurses and staff we have spoken with directly, this standard is unattainable with the staffing that Providence St. Joseph provides.

As Ester addressed the crowd of caregivers through a bullhorn, she stated that since the start of the year, twenty “experienced nurses have left” St. Joseph Hospital.  Ester contended this “is a huge loss of knowledge and nursing experience. These RNs help train and mentor new nurses. Now some shifts are staffed with RNs with less than one year’s experience.”

Peter Jon Mueller, an ICU Nurse working at ST Joseph Hospital in Eureka described lacking assistance, not getting breaks on a 12 hour shift, and being generally frustrated by the lack of experienced nurses on board at Providence. St. Joes. [Photo by Ryan Hutson]

Peter Jon Mueller, an ICU Nurse working at ST Joseph Hospital in Eureka described lacking assistance, not getting breaks on a 12 hour shift, and being generally frustrated by the lack of experienced nurses on board at Providence. St. Joes. [Photo by Ryan Hutson][Photo by Ryan Hutson]

We spoke with an ICU nurse who had joined the picket line on the corner of Harrison and Dolbeer after a grueling 14 hour shift.  Peter Mueller told us he is at risk of losing his medical license each and every time he shows up for work, due to the level of unsafe practices that staff are forced to make do with.  Peter explained that a lack of medical supplies – from dressings to syringes to ice – are in desperately short supply, directly impacting his and others’ ability to operate safely, very literally.  Peter was visibly tired but spoke passionately about his patients and his job.  

Having graduated from CR’s nursing program two years ago, Peter was excited to join the ranks at Providence St. Joseph Hospital with a vision of setting down and raising a family in Humboldt.  He does not know if that is realistic now, saying, “My license is on the line every time I come to work.” He told us, “It’s really hard for the people who are here for their life, and careers, because they can’t just pick up and leave and they suffer, and they risk their license every day when we’re understaffed.”  

Peter Jon Mueller spoke with us about his last two years as an ICU nurse at Providence St. Joseph Hospital in Eureka. [All photos and Video by Ryan Hutson]

As an example, Peter told us about his struggle to properly care for patients under such circumstances.  “One of my patients in those first two hours while I was on the PCU [progressive care unit] needed a medication that required me to measure out exactly 1.5 mL for a very high-risk medication. We have not had 2 mL or 3 mL Luer-Loc syringes for months! And the 10 mL syringes we had – you can’t accurately measure 1.5 mL – and I [had]to use my energy to ask people to watch my patients while I went over to the ICU and I found the LAST 3 mL syringe to properly measure 1.5 mL…” He added, “It’s very unsafe.” 

In another example of lack of basic supplies in a high-acuity department such as in the PCU or the ICU,  Mueller relayed another experience recently that was still freshly frustrating to him. “It’s happened where we run out of dressing kits and the house supervisor may not have time, due to being over-inundated trying to shuffle everyone around, to run down to the storage unit to find one of those,” he told us.

At Thursday picket, the union members articulated a short list of demands.  RNs and coworkers urged management to make real efforts to invest in staffing solutions, and named three other requests in their press release. “Stop violating the state’s safe staffing law,” “resolve ongoing unpaid wages and payroll errors” as well as “communicate when the payroll errors will be corrected.” 

At the time of publishing, we have not received a response to our inquiry made late Friday to Providence regarding this situation.  

This article is written by Ryan Hutson, a local freelance journalist. Follow Ryan at Humboldt Freelance Reporting on Facebook, Insta and YouTube. To support Ryan’s award winning reporting, please consider donating here.

 

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Giant Squirrel
Guest
Giant Squirrel
5 months ago

My family in Washington says Providence (and other) hospitals there have all the same problems staff complain of at St Joe. There’s no “grass greener” for healthcare workers elsewhere (except maybe UCSF), it’s the way it is in the profession so fight for change but ultimately it’s take it or leave it.

Last edited 5 months ago by Giant Squirrel
Nooo
Guest
Nooo
5 months ago
Reply to  Giant Squirrel

Actually the same complaints have appeared internationally. This is a similar story from Canada.
https://www.cbc.ca/news/health/financial-perks-doctor-recruitment-1.6548194 From the UK https://www.birminghammail.co.uk/black-country/nhs-facing-workforce-crisis-service-24706258
From Singapore https://www.channelnewsasia.com/cna-insider/why-healthcare-workers-singapore-hospitals-resignations-2647746

Maybe another long winded collaborative article between RHBB and the union misses the point. Maybe we should be not asking why Providence is so bad but, as you noticed, why is UCSF doing so much better.

Last edited 5 months ago by Nooo
Permanently on Monitoring
Member
Permanently on Monitoring
5 months ago

I stand with Nursing Staff, but the Union, I don’t like…

Unions take your money but don’t protect you from Employers.

If you love working there, too much to go elsewhere, don’t worry, they will find other people to exploit and screw with…

Providence is a terrible place to work. Firsthand experience. The worst.

It’s bad everywhere, and that’s why we call them “Travelers”, because they work there a few days, and then leave. They also take lower pay and benefits than Union Employees.

A Nursing Career is 10,000 days on your feet, endless patients and processes, ridiculous documentation, low pay and asshole billionaires to work for… It’s not a fun job, but it’s steady, until you don’t get paid…

Always remember, it’s not a lie if it’s in the company’s benefit… Or “For the Greater Good” as they say at Faith Based Hospitals…

If you are in the Nursing program, get an MBA instead…

Last edited 5 months ago by Permanently on Monitoring
Dude
Guest
Dude
5 months ago

Lol yeah buddy it’s the unions….

Vet
Guest
Vet
5 months ago

Unions are responsible for so many of the laws that provide benefits to EVERY worker, your comment is absurd and insulting.

Permanently on Monitoring
Member
Permanently on Monitoring
5 months ago
Reply to  Vet

Well, Unions smack of organised crime in many places, and from my point of view, Unions add no value to worker’s salaries or benefits, unions slow down negotiations, and union officers and their minions, are parasites of the worst kind, sort of like car salesmen and real estate agents.

Unions are dishonest, and “union shops” promote a poor working environment and constant discord, such as you see in Eureka at Providence.

I worked at Redwood, was hired as a “per diem”, with low pay and no benefits. I took it for the experience, and because it was relatively close, but experienced the awful coworkers, the “seniority mentality” and the “brainwashed” staff, who were also expected to attend Catholic “retreats” where presumably you were expected to “convert”… When I told them nix on the retreat, I was scheduled no hours whatsoever for weeks, and I told the manager I would have to move on if not given a full-time, benefited position immediately!

He dithered, I found another job in a week, and, on the day I was to start my new job, he called and wanted to hire me to work “graveyard”, which I had already told him I wasn’t going to take…

So, in the end, it was a very stupid experience, and with no regard for the “laws” that you perceive benefit everyone, I have to say that I am unlikely to endorse any union, that unions are for people who are afraid or unable to negotiate, and, Unions are just another facet of wage-slavery…

We could argue all day about this, but I have actually worked there and at some others, and in general, working in hospitals is not for free-thinkers… It takes dedication and mindless sacrifice, both concepts and ideologies that I suspect you lack… We have too many laws already, and most of them are freely ignored and broken, even by our Presidents, so please don’t trumpet “beneficial” laws promoted by parasitic entities…

Ann
Guest
Ann
5 months ago

Aren’t we SO glad these fools rushed into our small, remote county to snatch up any and every medical office they possibly could and then do the worst job possible running these places??? I’m so glad we have for profit care. So many choices! Quick, safe and accurate care! The best money can buy! Thank their precious god their profits are secure but who cares about the staff that actually do the work.

Nooo
Guest
Nooo
5 months ago
Reply to  Ann

No we aren’t. But there was lots of rejoicing when the ACA was passed that lead to so many private practitioners deciding to retire or join large groups rather than try to meet the demands in that law.

Permanently on Monitoring
Member
Permanently on Monitoring
5 months ago
Reply to  Nooo

Obamacare, which Trump promised to dismantle, isn’t the problem.

The problem is that Healthcare exists to make money, and not to care for patients…

As a former Healthcare Worker (41 years) I confidently assert that I could get hired tomorrow, without a union being involved, and with the highest compensation profile ever paid by that hospital for that position.

Break out! Examine your options! Don’t be a sheep, be a wolf!

Unions suck, and I’m distressed to see these protests happen, year in and out, when there are so many opportunities elsewhere…

If you don’t like being a nurse, become a Lawyer, like Dr Newdow…

Then you could sue the bastards, who didn’t pay you in a timely manner…

Nooo
Guest
Nooo
5 months ago

The reason for pointing out above that not for profit health care systems in other countries are having the same issues is that your hobby horse of for profit medicine being evil can’t carry the weight you insist on putting on it. Restaurants, warehouses, farming, manufacturing, shipping, etc- all having trouble with employ recruitment. Not that it’s hard to get a job. But finding people, who are not a giant PITA, who will work at a price that can be paid. This is a period of strong adjustment in society. Just as has happened repeatedly over history.

And, BTW, predators like wolves starve if there are no sheep.

Nooo
Guest
Nooo
5 months ago
Reply to  Nooo

And, yes ACA’s laundry list of requirement was and is a problem. It pushed numerous hospitals and private practices into failure. By regulation.

Permanently on Monitoring
Member
Permanently on Monitoring
5 months ago
Reply to  Nooo

The Government has pushed many a business into failure, but at least a few of them may have been mismanaged or involved in the $60,000,000,000/year fraudulent claims and other malfeasances they randomly get caught at…

Many hospitals have crooked, incompetent, nepotistic and thieving administrators whose employment may be maintained through years of poor practice and policy…

Many deserved to be put under.

Healthcare needs to be evolved, but Nurses have little power to change procedures… I wonder how many Physicians were underpaid, unpaid or screwed with…

IMO, Providence is doing this to weaken the Unions, but the worst management causes the employees to unionize in the first place!

Evolution has too many moving parts, and hospitals are complicated and also regulated to a dizzying degree!

I would say that the average hospital is a very, very poor place to be sick or need care, and that St Joe’s Eureka or Fortuna should be avoided, mainly due to the foul odor emanating from Administrative Offices!

Nobody in the industry liked Obamacare, and Emperor Trump couldn’t make a dent in it, and nobody really knows how to fix common healthcare… The government will screw it up even worse, but most probably will slow it down most effectively to the point where people just give up and stay away…

Nooo
Guest
Nooo
5 months ago

The fate of rural places unless some solution is found? Without leverage of votes and without the concern of elected official for those constituents, no fix will be found. Like ethnic Or racial voter lobbies, national health insurance will only be another opportunity missed. As a matter of law, the fact of not living in an urban settle needs equal care.
https://www.cbc.ca/newsinteractives/features/two-week-stint-on-fogo-island

Jim Brickley
Guest
Jim Brickley
5 months ago
Reply to  Ann

/s

Martin
Guest
Martin
5 months ago

It is way past time for St. Joseph Hospital to face these everyday problems with payroll, nursing shortages, overworked nurses, etc. The treatment these people are getting makes me sick. What the heck is wrong with administration that allows this to continue. These people need help to continue to do their job properly. Unlock your damn safe and use the money where it is needed NOW! News like this travels fast and anyone thinking about taking a job at St. Joe’s will not do it. I will continue to stand strong for all of our wonderful nurses!!!

Claudia Johnson
Guest
Claudia Johnson
5 months ago

I know of so many examples of not having enough people to care for injured people that come to the hospital that’s all that’s on the hospital management not the people that work there Let’s just hope no one dies from lack of care

Guest
Guest
Guest
5 months ago

“[P]roviding accurate and timely pay is one of the most fundamental roles that Providence plays as an employer, and we take any discrepancies in paychecks or missed pay incredibly seriously.”

???”…we take any discrepancies incredibly seriously”… ???

This is an incredible statement all right!

As in, “completely un-credible”.

They are not taking it seriously at all, or it would have already been corrected…

Sounds like Providence idiotically hired a foreign low bid payroll service, in order to save a few dollars, and now the employees will suffer, while the cut rate payroll service performs slipshod or downright corrupt services.

Providence’s reputation will ultimately suffer, as if it wasn’t already bad enough.

Permanently on Monitoring
Member
Permanently on Monitoring
5 months ago
Reply to  Guest

Providence is a typical generator of untruth, and if you don’t like being lied to, don’t work for liars…

Adventist Health is no better.

The real problem in Humboldt, is low pay and low-value benefits plus high costs of living…

https://lostcoastoutpost.com/jobs/

Gary Whittaker
Guest
Gary Whittaker
5 months ago

St Joe’s administration has spoken with the double tounge before the nuns bugged out.
Most doctors move on leaving the north coast in a doctor’s desert. Renta doc’s will fill the gaps. I’m sure their ad agency will concoct double talk to convince the public how wonderful they are. Sorry nurses, but don’t expect a metamorphosis in policy. It’ll just get worse for your entire career.

Nooo
Guest
Nooo
5 months ago
Reply to  Gary Whittaker

One trouble I have with this scenario of big bad bureaucrat versus abused employees is that I have had experience with some of the said employees over the years too. From inebriated nurses to clusters of gossiping employees ignoring patients (thank goodness patients I did not know personally) to the failure of a previous patient to show up for surgery causing me to be frog marched at speed into surgery so they could leave work early. There is always a small group who complain to each other about other employees getting away with stuff within the hearing of patients and visitors. It’s not that they do it- everyone does at times- but that they don’t worry about patients hearing it. There’s a definite lack of pride involved.

There are amazing, life saving hospital personnel who give their best. A surprising number of them in fact. From clerks and janitors (yes the janitor who smiled while she came into the waiting room when asked to clean up the mess left by a numb nut patient) to doctors. Yes- visiting doctors too. But there systematic problems with bored, acting out disgruntled personel too. And I doubt whether money is the whole reason by far. I suspect the lack of pride is a society issue at the moment. And an abundance of entitled people on bothvsudes of the equation.

Gary Whittaker
Guest
Gary Whittaker
5 months ago
Reply to  Nooo

Geez. That was just a bunch of jibberish. If employees are actually breaking HEPA rules, then fire them. Has little to do with the corporate mentality shoved down the employees gullets. It’s called an administrative code brown.

Two Dogs
Guest
Two Dogs
5 months ago

Might I suggest contacting HARM as a means of addressing your syringe shortage. Or just walk the trails and pick up the ones that aren’t bent and soak ’em in some Clorox.