Nurses Plan to Strike

Over 11,000 nurses from five UC medical centers — including the UCSD medical centers — will strike on June 10 to protest unsafe nurse-to-patient ratios, the National Nurses United announced last Friday.

“One of the things we’ve been asking is that the [nurse-to-patient] ratio should be maintained at all times,” UCSD Medical Center – Hillcrest registered nurse Janice Webb said. “We’re asking for break-relief nurses. That’s a nurse that comes in and watches your patient while you’re on break.”

The protest, slated to be the largest nurse strike in U.S. history, will also include an additional 14,000 nurses from California and Minnesota, totaling 25,000 participants.

California law requires hospitals to maintain at least one nurse for every three to five patients, depending on the care the patients receive. The union said it wants to mandate stronger enforcement of these laws and establish safe ratios at all times.

According to Webb, the medical centers do not have enough nurses to attend the patients.

“We’ve been having meetings with hospitals that say they already have charge nurses, but realistically they can’t maintain the ratio on breaks,” she said. “A lot of times when the charge nurses [or nurses who supervise] watch, there are still more nurses needed — just someone to help out.”

However, in an online statement, the UC Office of the President contended that such a strike is without legitimate cause.

“The university considers this action unlawful, a violation of good-faith bargaining requirements and a clear violation of the parties’ contract,” UCOP said in their statement.

The strike will also attempt to secure the nurses’ retirement benefits to make sure neither politicians nor the health industry can easily rescind them.

“The other thing we’re concerned about is the pension and our health benefits,” Webb said. “Things are getting expensive now, and they’re trying to look at ways to cut costs. That’s going to affect people, and we want the ability to negotiate with them when they decide.”

According to Webb, the California Nurses Association recently presented UC medical centers with a resolution to the problem before resorting to a state-wide strike.

“We didn’t come up with a cookie-cutter program,” Webb said. “We made a recommendation based on each unit, what type of patients they have. We actually had a well thought out plan, and we’d like to give it a try and enter a contract so that way we’d actually be able to enforce the plan.”

Webb said that the UC medical centers would benefit if more nurses were brought in to care for patients.

“There are all these issues they’re having at all hospitals in California, such as patients falling,” Webb said. “Break nurses can help out with that kind of stuff — the little things that kind of fall through the cracks when people are on breaks.”

She added that improving the nurse-to-patient ratio is a necessity in order to maintain quality care in the medical centers.

“People deserve more time to take a deep breath,” Webb said. “You can’t really work that well if you’re not going to have enough time to gather your thoughts, especially in this difficult field of work. You need it to give the patients the good care they deserve.”

UCSD Health System spokesperson Kimberly Edwards claims the medical centers do not know what actions they will take in response to the strike.

“It’s too early in the process for speculation, financial or otherwise,” she said.

Readers can contact Connie Qian at [email protected].