Sutter nurses begin second strike in two months

For the second time in two months, about 5,000 nurses are gathered today outside 13 Sutter Health hospitals in the Bay Area to advocate issues they say haven’t been adequately addressed since the October strike.

The nurses want better healthcare and retirement plans, according to Liz Jacobs, a California Nurses Association spokeswoman.

They also want “adequate meal and rest breaks so they can perform safely,” and they would like for trained hospital personnel to be hired who can lift obese patients to prevent nurses from straining their backs, Jacobs said.

In addition, Jacobs said Sutter is asking nurses “to accept … health care that has higher premiums and less choice of where they can go.” The nurses also want “good health care when they retire and a decent pension,” Jacobs added.

Dori Stevens, chief executive nurse at Sutter Delta Medical Center in Antioch, said they are willing to meet with union leaders to reach an agreement.

“We have offered a very comprehensive package to the nurses,” Stevens said today.

The union wants one master contract for all Sutter hospitals and “to change the language of the contract to make it easier for nurses to join the union,” said Kevin McCormack, a spokesman for California Pacific Medical Center, one of the hospitals where nurses went on strike.

The two-day strike began at about 7 a.m. today as nurses showed up “in good spirits” to the 13 hospitals to advocate the three key issues they reportedly addressed in October’s strike, Jacobs said.

“Nurses don’t want to strike,” Jacobs emphasized. “The fact that they took the second strike was a message to Sutter that whatever Sutter put across the table between the strikes is unacceptable.”

The hospitals affected by the strike: San Francisco’s St. Luke’s Hospital and California Pacific Medical Center, San Leandro Hospital, Alta Bates Summit Medical Center in Berkeley and Oakland, Mills-Peninsula Health Services in Burlingame and San Mateo, Castro Valley’s Eden Medical Center, Sutter Delta Medical Center in Antioch, Sutter Solano Medical Center in Vallejo, Sutter Medical Center in Santa Rosa, Marin General Hospital in Greenbrae and Novato Community Hospital, have hired replacement nurses to temporarily fill in for those on strike, Jacobs said.

Although the strike is expected to last two days, nurses at all Bay Area Sutter hospitals, excluding St. Luke’s Hospital, California Pacific Medical Center and Sutter Medical Center in Santa Rosa, may not be able to return to work until Monday or Tuesday because the hospitals hired replacement nurses under contracts that last three to five days, according to Jacobs.

Nurses at St. Luke’s Hospital, California Pacific Medical Center and Sutter Medical Center are expected to return to work Saturday, Jacobs said.

The nurses are ready to jump in to help if an emergent situation presents itself, Jacobs said.

“We always have provisions and are willing to not compromise care,” Jacobs said. “We’re not going to make the patients suffer.”

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