Friday, May 16, 2014

Oakland Highland Hospital Workers strike for workplace safety

"Attacks at Alameda Health Systems and San Francisco General Hospital Spark Outrage and Calls for Comprehensive Changes to Protect Patients and Caregivers; Healthcare Workers From Around Bay Area Demand Action on Epidemic of Hospital Violence" 
2014-05-09 from "SEIU1021" []:
Oakland, CA—Registered nurses and healthcare workers from across the Bay Area are protesting a growing epidemic of violent assaults against caregivers today, joining with workplace safety experts and concerned community members outside Highland Hospital in Oakland.
The healthcare workers are calling for improved protections for staff and patients at Alameda Health System (AHS), which has seen a jump in incidents of reported workplace violence in recent years, up to 76 different attacks last year. AHS runs Highland, John George, and Fairmont Hospitals along with community health clinics. John George Psychiatric Hospital was the sight of a killing of a doctor – beaten to death in a private examination room – nearly a decade ago. While that assault led to a temporary increase in security, the conditions there and at other Bay Area hospitals has since deteriorated, making healthcare one of the most dangerous occupations. RNs at other Bay Area hospitals have been killed at work in recent years and are calling on the state legislature to take action.
The healthcare workers and community allies are calling on AHS, and all regional health systems, to “Break the Silence—Stop the Violence.” Specifically, they are calling on AHS to; increase security staff and have programs in place to prevent weapons from brought in, including the installation of metal detectors at some sites; enhance staffing for patients with a history of violence; and involve front-line caregivers in the efforts to respond to the epidemic of violence.
The caregivers have been working for months to establish such protections in their contract without success. Their union, SEIU1021, is sharply critical of management’s response, particularly in light of the history AHS has had with substandard prevention programs.
Ariel Edwards, a certified nursing assistant at Fairmont Hospital spoke at the rally and said, “A couple of years ago, I was used as a shield by a doctor against a violent patient. The patient punched me and I had to be taken to the hospital. I’ve since developed vertigo and have nightmares about being assaulted on the job. Management at AHS can do something about it now.”
Charice Johnson, also a certified nursing assistant at Fairmont, said that, “One morning I was helping a patient get out of bed and get ready for the day. He was upset and kicked me in the stomach. At this time, I was pregnant with twins. I’ve been scratched, kicked, and pushed. I’ve been verbally sexually harassed at work. Management needs to take our safety seriously.”
“As nurses and healthcare workers, we have the responsibility of protecting the patients under our care, but management has the responsibility of making sure that we’re safe so that we can focus on helping save lives and helping people get better,” said Dave Fleming, a registered nurse at San Francisco General Hospital, who’s experienced violence on the job. “It’s time management stop ignoring the problem and start making real changes that make our hospitals and clinics safer for everyone.”
“Our health and safety is not supposed to be for sale. That’s why employers are legally required to provide safe workplaces, and to deal with hazards like the spectrum of violence,” added Dorothy Wigmore, the occupational health specialist for Worksafe, a non-profit health and safety organization. “Almost all violent incidents can be predicted and prevented. We’ve known that for years. Yet, for many workers, the message is the opposite: ‘It’s part of your job’ and/or ‘What did you do?’ It’s way past time for employers to deal with this very real and important hazard, especially in health care. Silence is not the answer.”
SEIU 1021 represents 1,500 nurses at the San Francisco Department of Public Health and over 800 nurses and 1,500 respiratory therapists, medical clerks, social workers, certified nursing assistants and other healthcare workers at Alameda Health System’s Highland, John George, and Fairmont Hospitals and community health clinics.

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