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Nurses at SF General Hospital raise concerns over staffing and safety

San Francisco nurses voice concerns to Department of Public Health about work conditions
San Francisco nurses voice concerns to Department of Public Health about work conditions 03:20

SAN FRANCISCO — A nurse with more than 16 years of experience at SF General Hospital joined her colleagues at the Department of Public Health to highlight urgent issues affecting healthcare facilities across San Francisco.

Speaking at a press conference, Heather Bollinger expressed deep concerns about staffing shortages and safety conditions that are impacting patient care.

"We're trying to alert them of some of the consistent staffing concerns, safety concerns, and the lack of resources that are leading to really unsustainable patient conditions at the hospital," Bollinger stated.

Megan Green, another nurse at SF General Hospital since 2013, echoed Bollinger's sentiments, shedding light on the challenging working conditions they face daily.

"I've frequently worked 12 and a half hours without a break, and I can tell you that I've gotten 16,000 steps in a shift, and that is a lot to do without sitting down and handing your phone to someone so you can go to the bathroom in peace," Green expressed.

These concerns are not isolated incidents but have been ongoing for months across various health care facilities, including SF General Hospital, Laguna Honda Hospital, and community clinics. A recent survey conducted by the union representing these nurses revealed alarming statistics, with 99% of respondents reporting abuse or assault at work.

Over 70% reported physical assault, over 94% experienced verbal abuse, and 10% faced sexual assault and/or harassment involving physical interaction.

"I've seen an incredibly high turnover rate amongst my colleagues, so you're constantly working with new people all the time. We see that people just can't continue to work in this unsustainable environment, so they leave to go to another hospital where the pay is better, and the working conditions are less stringent," Bollinger said.

In response to these serious allegations, the Department of Public Health issued a statement acknowledging the challenges faced by nurses while emphasizing efforts to address staffing issues. They highlighted progress in hiring and retaining permanent registered nurses, including the addition of 135 new nursing positions since 2019 and a reduction in the RN vacancy rate to just under 8 percent.

"While the priority is to fill permanent Registered Nurse positions, we must also rely on contracted nurses when necessary to ensure safe patient care. The use of contracted nurses currently represents just 4% of nursing care provided," the Department of Public Health stated.

However, nurses like Bollinger and Green remain skeptical and are urging DPH management to take decisive action to address the ongoing crisis.

"If they force us to strike, if they put us in a position and back us into a corner and don't respond to 60 of our proposals and tell us we're doing fine and we should just sit down and shut up, then you'll see us strike," Green warned.

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