Patient Care is Top Priority at Children's Hospital Oakland despite Irresponsible and Misguided Nurse Union Strike
September 21 , 2011
Oakland, Calif. – Children’s Hospital Oakland said today the Hospital will remain open and functioning despite a planned strike beginning Thursday, September 22 by members of the Hospital’s nurses union to coincide with strikes at 33 other hospitals throughout California. The Union is encouraging members to walk out on patients in a demand for pay and benefit raises as part of a new contract with the not-for-profit safety net hospital.
“We have hired qualified pediatric and specialty replacement nurses, many of whom have worked at Children’s during the last two strikes, and healthcare professionals to work alongside our non-striking nurses, physicians, and other employees during the five-day period,” said Nancy Shibata, RN, MSN, Children’s Chief Nursing Officer. Though California Nurses Association (CNA) plans for a one-day strike, Children’s and other Bay Area hospitals must contract with replacement nurses for a total of five days, therefore the nurses will be unable to return to work until September 27.
Children’s Hospital will continue to provide emergency services and high quality patient care. Most elective surgeries have been rescheduled to allow the organization to safely manage the anticipated high volume demand for urgent and emergent services during the 34-hospital state-wide strike.
“Unfortunately, this kind of misguided action by CNA only hurts the infants, children, and parents who are forced to reschedule surgeries that they’ve been planning on for months,” said Shibata. “That the Union would attempt to disrupt health services for the children and families in communities throughout the state is irresponsible and thoughtless.”
CNA notified the Hospital on Friday, September 9 that it would strike September 22. Two smaller unions have indicated they may honor the picket line.
“The CNA leadership is out-of-touch with changes occurring throughout the country related to wages and healthcare benefits, and out of touch with the fact that Children’s is financially strained,” said Shibata. “By holding another strike at Children’s at the same time as dozens of other hospitals throughout the state shows that the California Nurses Association cares more about preserving its status in the union marketplace than meeting the needs of our patients, our staff, and our hospital.”
According to Shibata, the Hospital is proposing a wage freeze in 2010 with pay increases in the following years. The Hospital is offering 100 percent employer-paid HMO plan for nurses and their families with a second premium PPO option that requires a 15% pre-tax employee contribution. Even with the employee contribution plan, the Hospital still pays the majority of the premium which in 2011 amounts to up to $23,276.88 per employee per year. The average hourly rate for a nurse is $67.31, which equates to $140,000 a year for working 40 hours a week.
A mix of employer-paid and contributory plans have been rolled out to other Children’s Hospital employees over the past few years and Service Employees International Union (SEIU) agreed earlier this year to a new contract with similar healthcare benefits. Children’s pays more than $33 million each year for its employees’ healthcare benefits at the 190-bed hospital.
The Hospital and CNA leaders have been negotiating a new contract since May of 2010 and on August 24, the Hospital presented its “last, best, and final offer.” The previous contract expired in July 2010. The Union is demanding a 12% salary increase over the next three years that the Hospital clearly cannot afford.
In 2009, Children’s Hospital announced that it lost more than $69 million over the preceding four years, including a loss of $17.9 million in 2009 alone. The Hospital says financial challenges stem from the poor economy, low reimbursement rates, increasing healthcare costs and a lack of public hospitals with pediatric inpatient beds. Over the past two years, the Hospital has been restructuring its services, developing new business opportunities, and actively negotiating higher private insurance and government reimbursements to cover patient care costs.
Media Relations Manager
About Children’s Hospital & Research Center Oakland
Children’s Hospital & Research Center Oakland is Northern California’s only independent not-for-profit regional medical center for children. Children’s Hospital Oakland is a national leader in many pediatric specialties and sub-specialties including hematology/oncology, neonatology, cardiology, orthopedics, sports medicine, and neurosurgery. The hospital is one of only two solely designated California Level 1 pediatric trauma centers with the largest pediatric inpatient critical care unit in the region. Children’s Hospital has 190 licensed beds, 201 hospital-based physicians in 30 specialties, more than 2,700 employees, and an annual operating budget of more than $350 million. Children’s is also a premier teaching hospital with an outstanding pediatric residency program and unique pediatric subspecialty fellowship programs.
Children’s research program, Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Institute (CHORI), is internationally renowned for taking state-of-the-art basic and clinical research and translating it into interventions for treating and preventing human diseases. CHORI has 300 members of its investigative staff, a budget of about $50 million, and is ranked among the nation’s top 10 research centers in National Institutes of Health funding to children’s hospitals. For more information, go to www.childrenshospitaloakland.org and www.chori.org.