About 700 nurses at Sutter Health Services in Burlingame and San Mateo are prepared to walk off the job next week to highlight eroding health benefits and staffing shortages, according to the California Nurses Association.
Sutter officials, however, say the union is “strike happy” and that their hospitals exceed the state’s safe staffing ratios.
A one-day strike is planned Thursday, April 30 at the two local Sutter hospitals and three others in Northern California.
The action will coincide with other strikes planned at three other California hospitals and one in Chicago.
“We are striking against the takeaways on the table,” said CNA spokeswoman Joanne Jung.
The nonprofit health care provider is offering the nurses self-insured Sutter plans that shifts too much cost onto the nurses, Jung said Wednesday.
Out-of-pocket expenses for some nurses may climb from about $85 annually to up to $5,000, Jung said.
The nurses are also seeking staffing changes to ensure patient safety, she said.
“There is not enough staffing to provide safe patient care,” she said.
The nurses challenge Sutter’s move to cut costs as it is sitting on nearly $7.9 billion in assets as of the end of 2014. Over the past five years, Sutter has recorded $3.5 billion in profits, according to CNA.
“There is no reason why a nonprofit should make this kind of money while cutting expenses,” Jung said. “It’s highly inappropriate that it doesn’t have to pay taxes while not providing charity care.”
It has scaled back its charity care, Jung said, from $166 million in 2013 to $91 million in 2014, according to CNA.
Sutter’s tax-exempt status relies on its charity care, Jung said.
But Sutter officials contend their nurses make plenty.
A full-time Sutter nurse working under a CNA contract earns an average of $140,000 a year, according to Dr. Stephen Lockhart, chief medical officer of the nonprofit.
Nurses also receive employer-paid pensions and 40 paid days off annually, according to Lockhart.
“This labor union follows a PR playbook and they pick themes they believe will resonate with the public — even if the claims are false. The fact is, Sutter Health hospitals meet or exceed the state’s safe staffing ratios and routinely rank in the top quartile for quality,” Sutter Health spokesman Bill Gleeson wrote in a statement.
The union is seeking a wage increase of up to 19 percent and has not considered Sutter proposals, according to Gleeson.
Noting that the CNA union called 150 strikes against Northern California hospitals in the past five years, Gleeson wrote: “Unfortunately, this union has a pattern of calling unnecessary strikes.”
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