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2,300 SFDPH nurses expected to hold strike vote over staffing

PIX Now - Morning Edition 5/10/24
PIX Now - Morning Edition 5/10/24 09:49

San Francisco public health nurses will hold a strike authorization vote next week over what they say are inadequate and unsafe staffing levels at the city's hospitals and clinics.

The vote will take place from Tuesday through Friday and will include the 2,300 San Francisco Department of Public Health nurses represented by the Service Employees International Union Local 1021.

"Chronic, dangerous understaffing of frontline caregivers across our entire system has led to working conditions which are unsafe for patients, increased violence in the workplace, and record high resignation rates in critical areas," registered nurse Heather Bollinger, the union chapter president at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital, said in a press release Thursday evening.

The nurses say they've been in negotiations with SFDPH, which runs SF General and Laguna Honda hospitals, since February and that the city has rejected all their staffing proposals.

The union alleges that the city refuses to acknowledge the existence of a staffing shortage but says that nurses routinely miss break periods and lunches, work hundreds of thousands of hours of overtime and that temporary part-time nurses worked more than 600,000 hours in 2022 and 2023.

The union also says SFDPH wasted money on consultants during Laguna Honda's state recertification process, which became necessary after the hospital nearly closed due to safety concerns.

"Instead of wasting tens of millions of dollars on consultants who have done little to improve patient care, and in some cases have actually implemented non-evidence based practices, they could have provided us with the permanent, full-time nurses and ancillary staff we need to provide the quality of care our residents need and deserve," said registered nurse Kathleen MacKerrow.

SFDPH officials say they've made "significant progress in hiring and retaining permanent registered nurses as we continue to recover and stabilize operations after the pandemic."

The city currently has more than 1,500 registered nurses on staff, the most in its history, has hired 166 nurses since last December and has plans to hire 50 more in the next few months, according to SFDPH officials.

Also, the city uses contracted nurses to provide just 4 percent of its patient care and plans to have only a 5 percent registered nurse vacancy rate by the end of this fiscal year, SFDPH officials said in an email Friday.

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