Hundreds of nurses from Long Beach Memorial Medical Center and Miller Children’s Hospital staged a one-day strike Thursday over failed contract negotiations and staffing issues.
Equipped with bullhorns and whistles, the nurses stood by the main entrance of the hospitals on Patterson Street and Atlantic Avenue. Many waved picket signs that read: “If nurses are outside, something’s wrong inside” and “Safe staffing at all times.”
Amid the yelling and cheering for every car horn honk they got, the nurses sang out chants.
The California Nurses Assn. has been working without a contract since Sept. 30 and has been at odds with hospital management over staffing conditions and rising costs of healthcare premiums.
Union President DeAnn McEwen said most nurses are unable to take breaks or lunches and some nurses are forced to cover for one another by doubling patients. She said the hospitals also want to eliminate a 5% cap on healthcare premiums.
Additionally, she said, the union wants the hospitals to create a patient lift policy — teams that lift and move patients out of beds — to prevent work injuries. Next year a state law will require that such teams be put in place at hospitals, union and hospital officials say.
“This hospital is extremely profitable and they’re engaging in Wall Street-style gambling with the lives of patients and nurses,” McEwen said.
Myra Gregorian, the hospitals’ vice president for human resources, called the strike a disappointment and disagreed with the union’s claims. She said the hospitals are in compliance with state laws and added that the hospitals have had patient lift teams in place for five years even though it was never required by the state.
“We will comply with any changes that will be made,” Gregorian said.
Officials said nurses are paid for missed breaks and lunches.
An additional 4,000 nurses from eight Bay Area hospitals owned by Sutter Health were striking Thursday at their facilities over the same issues, union officials said.