Friday, May 23, 2014

Nurses Make Strike Threat, Claim Unsafe Conditions

Posted By on Fri, May 23, 2014 at 10:30 AM

click to enlarge Ready to strike?
  • Ready to strike?

As the negotiating battle rages on between the San Francisco Department of Public Health and its nurses, a medic or two may soon be necessary. 

The nurses today threatened to hold a strike vote in early June that could take effect as soon as July. But that's not all: It's been a busy day and it's not even 11 a.m. The nurses also filed an Unfair Labor Practices Charge with the state Public Employee Relations Board and released a union-generated white paper that "details the culture of mismanagement at DPH." 

Bargaining between the city and the SEIU 1021 is slated to continue through Wednesday and, it seems, the time for mere palliative care has concluded: "If they don't compromise about staffing, we'll take a strike vote," nurse Lorraine Thiebaud, the president of the San Francisco General Hospital nurse's union, tells SF Weekly

Today's brief white paper -- which you can read here -- is self-categorized as "a public warning." It carries the eye-opening title "Empty Scrubs and Overflowing Beds," which does not make for pleasant mental imagery.

But this does not make for pleasant reading. Among its most salient claims: 

  • The Department of Public Health is carrying 235 fewer nurses than it's budgeted for (1,175 full-time equivalent positions instead of 1,410); 

  • This, the nurses continue, is the case, despite DPH being on pace to finish the fiscal year $46.3 million in the black -- with $26 million of that bulge coming from General Hospital; 

  • General Hospital's Emergency Room diversion rate -- the percentage of time essentially everyone but the very worst cases is sent elsewhere -- was 43 percent in 2013, roughly double the 2012 rate. 

The upshot: "Patients who enter our facilities receive a level of care that we frequently do not consider safe. The main reason is that there are not enough nurses and other hospital staff to care for them in their most vulnerable hours." 

In a theatrical touch, nurses this week delivered the mayor's office 235 empty scrubs, representing the unfilled, budgeted positions. (The symbolic delivery was left with a mayoral aide; it is unknown what the mayor's office opted to do with 235 sets of highly specialized clothing).  

Calls to DPH spokeswoman Rachael Kagan and the mayor's office have not yet been returned. Kagan, in the past, has told us that hospital staffing is "adequate."  

Update, 4:10 p.m.: Kagan sent the following statement our way. Christine Falvey, the mayor's spokeswoman, says Lee's office has "asked General Hospital to get back to you on staffing issues.": 

San Francisco General is a safe, high quality hospital.

We agree with our nurses that staffing is key to patient and staff safety. That is true for every hospital, and we take it very seriously.

We do have vacancies, and we are working hard to fill them. The hiring process can be challenging because of city rules, and we are working together to resolve those issues, which apply to several positions in departments city-wide. Meanwhile, we have other options, including using on-call nurses and registry nurses - options that all hospitals use. Consequently, open positions don't equate to short staffing. We assess and adjust staffing levels every day, which is standard practice in operating a hospital. 

Right now, this union is bargaining for a new contract. They are at the table today. There are many issues being discussed there -- staffing, wages, working conditions - which is appropriate. We hope that a resolution will be reached soon, so that we can all move forward to continue to meet our mission of providing quality health care and trauma services with compassion and respect.

San Francisco General Hospital is the city's only trauma center, busiest emergency room, and only psychiatric emergency room. Our nurses work in very challenging conditions, with patients in great need. Our nurses do a tremendous job and we have great respect for their skills and dedication. Hospitals are all about nursing care.

We want to make sure that the people of San Francisco understand that staffing was not identified as an issue in either of the two recent incidents cited in the SEIU report. Both the tragic patient death last year, and the assault in the emergency department were fully investigated by state and federal regulators and hospital accreditors and staffing was not cited as a factor in those cases. The recent independent review of our security program also found adequate security staffing for patient safety.

  • Pin It

About The Author

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi was born in San Francisco, raised in the Bay Area, and attended U.C. Berkeley. He never left. "Your humble narrator" is a staff writer and columnist for SF Weekly, which he has written for since 2007. He resides in the Excelsior with his wife, 4.3 miles from his birthplace and 5,474 from hers... more


Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Popular Stories

  1. Most Popular Stories
  2. Stories You Missed

Like us on Facebook


  • Nevada City and the South Yuba River: A gold country getaway

    Nestled in the green pine-covered hills of the Northern Sierra Nevada is the Gold Rush town of Nevada City. Beautiful Victorian houses line the streets, keeping the old-time charm alive, and a vibrant downtown is home to world-class art, theater and music. The nearby South Yuba River State Park is known for its emerald swimming holes during the summer and radiant leaf colors during autumn. These days the gold panning is more for tourists than prospectors, but the gold miner spirit is still in the air.

    South Yuba River State Park and Swimming Holes:
    The park runs along and below 20 miles of the South Yuba River, offering hiking, mountain biking, gold panning and swimming. The Highway 49 bridge swimming hole is seven-miles northwest of Nevada City where Highway 49 crosses the South Yuba River. Parking is readily available and it is a short, steep hike to a stunning swimming hole beneath a footbridge. For the more intrepid, trails extend along the river with access to secluded swim spots. The Bridgeport swimming hole has calm waters and a sandy beach -- good for families and cookouts -- and is located 14 miles northwest of Nevada City. Be sure to write down directions before heading out, GPS may not be available. Most swimming holes on the South Yuba River are best from July to September, while winter and spring can bring dangerous rapids. Always know the current before jumping in!

    Downtown Nevada City
    The welcoming, walkable downtown of Nevada City is laid back, yet full of life. Start your day at the cozy South Pine Cafe (110 S Pine St.) with a lobster benedict or a spicy Jamaican tofu scramble. Then stroll the streets and stop into the shop Kitkitdizzi (423 Broad St.) for handcrafted goods unique to the region, vintage wears and local art “all with California gold rush swagger,” as stated by owners Carrie Hawthorne and Kira Westly. Surrounded by Gold Rush history, modern gold jewelry is made from locally found nuggets and is found at Utopian Stone Custom Jewelers (301 Broad St.). For a coffee shop with Victorian charm try The Curly Wolf (217 Broad St.), an espresso house and music venue with German pastries and light fare. A perfect way to cool down during the hot summer months can be found at Treats (110 York St.) , an artisan ice cream shop with flavors like pear ginger sorbet or vegan chai coconut. Nightlife is aplenty with music halls, alehouses or dive bars like the Mine Shaft Saloon (222 Broad St.).

    The Willo Steakhouse (16898 State Hwy 49, Nevada City)
    Along Highway 49, just west of Nevada City, is The Willo, a classic roadhouse and bar where you’re welcomed by the smell of steak and a dining room full of locals. In 1947 a Quonset hut (a semi-cylindrical building) was purchased from the US Army and transported to its current location, and opened as a bar, which became popular with lumberjacks and miners. The bar was passed down through the decades and a covered structure was added to enlarge the bar and create a dining area. The original Quonset beams are still visible in the bar and current owners Mike Byrne and Nancy Wilson keep the roadhouse tradition going with carefully aged New York steaks and house made ingredients. Pair your steak or fish with a local wine, such as the Rough and Ready Red, or bring your own for a small corkage fee. Check the website for specials, such as rib-eye on Fridays.

    Outside Inn (575 E Broad St.)
    A 16-room motel a short walk from downtown, each room features a unique décor, such as the Paddlers’ Suite or the Wildflower Room. A friendly staff and an office full of information about local trails, swimming and biking gets you started on your outdoor exploration. Amenities include an outdoor shower, a summer swimming pool and picnic tables and barbeques. Don’t miss the free vegetable cart just outside the motel in the mornings.

    Written and photographed by Beth LaBerge for the SF Weekly.

  • Arcade Fire at Shoreline
    Arcade Fire opened their US tour at Shoreline Amphitheater to a full house who was there in support of their album "Reflector," which was released last fall. Dan Deacon opened the show to a happily surprised early audience and got the crowd actively dancing and warmed up. DEVO was originally on the bill to support Arcade Fire but a kayak accident last week had sidelined lead singer Mark Mothersbaugh and the duration of the west coast leg of the tour. Win Butler did a homage to DEVO by performing Uncontrollable Urge.