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Bay Area nurses:
"Sutter Health's not a good neighbor hospital"

Photo(s) by John Han

By John Han

October 4, 2007

Bay Area nurses held a press conference Wednesday outside of St. Luke's Hospital in San Francisco to address plans by Sutter Health to cut patient care services.

The nurses are members of the California Nurses Association (CNA).

The nurses allege Sutter Health and its' affiliate organization, California Pacific Medical Center (CPMC), want to eliminate in-patient emergency and acute care services at St. Luke's, and other Sutter Health hospitals

Plans for a two-day strike scheduled on Oct. 10th and 11th was announced at the press conference.

It is expected to be the union's largest strike in ten years. Approximately 5,000 registered nurses from fifteen Bay Area hospitals are expected to take part in the strike action.

Jan Rodolfo RN and member of CNA said improvement in staffing is one of her main concerns.

She said Sutter Health have regularly failed to provide adequate relief staff.

"You work your twelve hour shift without a meal or a break, which isn't good for you or your patients," said Rodolfo. "Or, you have to walk away from them and feel like you're leaving them unattended. One of the things we'd like them to do is actually obey the 'ratio law' and provide meal and break relief."

Rodolfo added that the elimination of emergency and acute care services from St. Luke's Hospital will have devastating impacts.

"If you're having an acute heart attack and you need to get to the hospital fast, then even seconds count," said Rodolfo. "To have to travel across town to another facility could make the difference between life and death."

Jan Rodolfo

According to Marc Snyder, St. Luke's Head of Emergency, the hospital currently receives approximately ten ambulances a day. Loss of in-patient care at St. Luke's would involve the hospital no longer taking in patients who arrive by ambulance.

In an earlier meeting, Snyder said San Francisco General Hospital is already on a 20 percent rate of ambulance diversion for non-trauma patients. St. Luke's receives a share of that overflow.

Snyder said closure of in-patient care at St. Luke's would mean increasing pressure on emergency departments at other hospitals.

"Diversion would be a big problem," Snyder said, adding that ambulances would have longer wait times and travel distances. He said staff and patients at St. Luke's both felt the importance of keeping in-patient services open.

CPMC spokesperson Kevin McCormack denied plans to close services.

"The allegations are ridiculous," McCormack said. "We're committed to the future of St. Luke's."

Kevin McCormack

McCormack accused the CNA nurses of ulterior motives, claiming they were attempting to get more members in the union, and calling their allegations "a distraction."

"Right now we don't plan on cutting any emergency services here. Our emergency room is vital to the community. We're trying to serve the needs of this community the best we can," McCormack said.

He made no promises, however, that specific services would not be cut in the future.

"You can't guarantee anything," he added. "Nothing's guaranteed."

McCormack acknowledged that changes are being considered at St. Luke's Hospital but that he could not reveal any plans before presenting them to the Board of Supervisors.

"The words sound nice but the veracity is not," said Supervisor Tom Ammiano following McCormack's comments. "I'm not fooled by the words, we need to see the action."

Supervisor Tom Ammiano

Nurses remain skeptical citing promises by Sutter Health in 2000 that services would not be cut, only to suffer the loss of the psychiatric ward in 2005, and more recent downgrades in the neo-natal care unit, as well as cuts in physical and occupational therapy.





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