Nurses, healthcare workers authorize possible strike at 3 area hospitals

Registered nurses and other healthcare professionals at three local hospitals have authorized their bargaining team to call an unfair labor practice strike if deemed necessary, alleging their facilities were “alarmingly unprepared” for the COVID-19 pandemic.

Workers at Los Robles Regional Medical Center in Thousand Oaks, Riverside Community Hospital and West Hills Hospital and Medical Center claim they are grappling with staffing shortages and inadequate COVID-19 safety protections for employees and patients.

All three facilities are owned by the Nashville, Tenn.-based Hospital Corporation of America.

The employees are represented by SEIU Local 121.

Erin McIntosh, a rapid response nurse at the Riverside facility and a bargaining team member, said working conditions have been bad.

“Those of us on the front lines of this pandemic have witnessed not only the ravages of the disease but also the chaos manufactured by the hospital’s unwillingness to listen to our recommendations,” McIntosh said in a statement.

Employees at all three hospitals say they are dealing with aggressive rationing of protective equipment and staffing shortages — a situation that has forced some employees to work an entire shift without a break.

Rosanna Mendez, the union’s executive director, said the bargaining team is asking for “very basic stuff,” including access to the proper equipment, enough staff on their floors, access to COVID-19 testing and safe quarantine policies.

In a recent statement, HCA said its goal is to secure a “fair agreement with the union that continues to support a culture of colleague safety, care excellence and compassion.”

HCA said the union caused a five-week delay by inviting third parties into the labor negotiations in violation of the National Labor Relations Act.

“It is unfortunate that during a global pandemic, this union is once again making false allegations against us, using the deadly COVID-19 as a bargaining chip,” the statement said.

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