Children's Hospital Oakland Will Deliver Exceptional Patient Care Despite Misguided 5 Day Nurse Union Strike
May 4, 2011
Oakland, Calif. - Children’s Hospital Oakland said today the Hospital will remain open and functioning despite a planned five-day strike beginning Thursday, May 5 by members of the Hospital’s nurses union which is demanding pay and benefit raises as part of a new three-year contract.
"We have hired qualified pediatric and specialty replacement nurses and healthcare professionals to work alongside our non-striking nurses, physicians and other employees,” said Nancy Shibata, RN, MSN, Children’s Chief Nursing Officer. “We are fully prepared for the CNA action and we will be fully functioning throughout the five day period.”
Shibata says the Hospital will operate at a near normal capacity with the Emergency Department fully functional, but some elective surgeries have been rescheduled.
The California Nurses Association (CNA) notified the Hospital on Friday, April 22 that it would strike May 5 to May 10. Two smaller unions have indicated they may honor the picket line. She noted that the major union at the Hospital, SEIU, has already signed a similar contract to the one offered to CNA.
"The CNA is out of touch with changes occurring throughout the country related to wages and healthcare benefits, and out of touch with the fact that as a safety net, not-for-profit medical center, Children’s is financially strained,” said Shibata. “This strike is about the California Nurses Association preserving their status in the union marketplace, instead of meeting the needs of our patients, our staff, and our hospital.”
Shibata said 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 and PPO plans for nurses and their families with a third premium PPO option that requires a pre-tax employee contribution ranging from $111 - $311 a month, depending on individual or family coverage. Even with the employee contribution plan, the Hospital still pays the majority of the premium which 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 Hospital employees over the past few years and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) just agreed to a new contract with similar 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 three-year contract since May of 2010. The Union is demanding 17.5% salary increases over three years that the Hospital clearly cannot afford.
"We value our nurses, but CNA leaders are making demands that are simply out of touch with the current economic realities of our hospital,” Shibata said.
The CNA strike at Children’s coincides with nursing union strikes at other hospitals in Massachusetts in an attempt to put hospitals in competition with each other to recruit replacement nurses. Like CNA, the Massachusetts union is affiliated with the National Nurses United union.
"The fact that the Union would attempt to disrupt health services for the children and families in communities across the country is thoughtless and wrong,” said Shibata.
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. Since that time, 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.
The not-for-profit regional pediatric medical center said its financial challenges stem from the poor economy, low reimbursement rates, increasing healthcare costs and a lack of public hospitals with pediatric inpatient beds.
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.