Registered nurses at AHMC Seton Medical Center in Daly City launched a two-day strike Wednesday, calling on AHMC to address issues around patient care, understaffing and a chronic lack of supplies.
Approximately 200 nurses picketed at the medical center Wednesday morning, along with supporters from the community. The strike continued into the afternoon from 2 to 5 p.m., with a rally at 3 p.m. It will continue on Thursday at the same time slot.
"I have worked at Seton for 22 years and enough is enough," said Michelle Kubota, a registered nurse in the medical surgical unit, in an email statement.
Nurses said there is a persistent lack of supplies in the hospital, including oxygen, surgery supplies, wipes, diapers, bed pads and clean linens. They also reported that AHMC has failed to staff units, including the COVID unit, leading to delays in labs that would keep patients longer in the hospital.
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Due to understaffing, nurses are being asked to do two or more jobs and take on additional duties, said Cathy Evans, a registered nurse in the subacute department who attended the strike. Nurses said they have to change bed linens and answer the phone due to a shortage of clerks.
"It puts an extra burden on the nurses and takes us away from patient care," Evans said. "Sometimes [the patients] are putting on the call lights and we're not able to answer them on time."
Having worked at the hospital for 18 years, Evans said issues such as the shortage of different supplies have existed since AHMC took over the hospital in 2020 and have become more frequent lately. Nurses have been in contract negotiations with AHMC since December 2021 but failed to make substantial progress as AHMC didn't attend scheduled negotiating sessions.
In March, AHMC closed two hospital units serving elderly patients, which prompted the nurses' decision to go on strike.
AHMC also closed the geriatric psychiatric unit in May due to seismic repairs. AHMC said the temporarily closed floors at the medical center are expected to reopen in about six months. The striking nurses said they wanted patients transferred to other parts of the medical center during the repairs.
"We are deeply disappointed that leaders of the California Nurses Association will put our patients and our community at risk - again - with their call for a strike despite receiving fair compensation, staffing stabilization and rejecting a more-than-fair offer," Seton Medical Center Administrator Sarkis Vartanian said in a statement released on Wednesday.
AHMC said despite the national nurse shortage, the company has stabilized its nursing workforce by hiring 189 new staff members, 75 of whom are registered nurses. It also bought the hospital in 2020 with a pledge to undertake a 60-million-dollar seismic retrofit.
"Seton hospital is a vital community resource that serves some of the most vulnerable populations from Daly City and the surrounding areas. We are indebted to our nurses, and we must support them in any way possible so they can support us all in our moments of need," said Daly City Council member Pamela DiGiovannil, one of the speakers for the Wednesday rally.
Other speakers included San Mateo County Supervisor David Canepa, Daly City Mayor Roderick Daus-Mabual, Colma Mayor Helen Fisicaro and other city leaders.