San Mateo Medical Center reopens; strike averted

The county-run San Mateo Medical Center reopened to all patients Wednesday, after narrowly avoiding a two-day walkout by nurses over salary and benefits.

A breakthrough in talks came at about 3 a.m. Wednesday morning, officials said.

The tentative agreement resulted in the union calling off, at least for now, a Wednesday and Thursday strike of 380 nurses at the San Mateo Medical Center and associated clinics, said Joanne Jung, California Nurses Association spokeswoman.

Union officials and county negotiators declined to release details of the tentative agreement before presenting it to nurses, but did say that if approved the deal would go into effect May 21.

“What it means right now is that we’ve delayed the strike and we want to bring it back to the nurses and have them vote on whether the entire package is acceptable,” Jung said.

“We’re thrilled to have the nurses on duty,” San Mateo Medical Center spokesman Dave Hook said. “And, we are happy to have a tentative agreement on the table, and hope they ratify it soon.”

The union planned to present the tentative agreement to its members Wednesday and today, and a vote could come as early next week, Jung said.

Patients across the county felt the impact of Wednesday’s service cuts, as the medical center diverted ambulances, refused to accept new patients and rescheduled more than 300 clinic appointments and nonemergency surgeries, Hook said.

All told, emergency and psychiatric ward patients dropped from about 70 before the strike to 13 on Wednesday, Hook said.

Peninsula Hospital in Burlingame, with the county’s only psychiatric emergency room outside the medical center, saw double the number of psychiatric patients during the closure, at 20, said Barbara Pletz, county emergency medical service administrator.

If ratified by nurses, the Board of Supervisors would vote on the deal June 6, making it retroactive to May 21, officials said.

ecarpenter@examiner.com

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