Hundreds of nurses at Kaiser Permanente Los Angeles Medical Center staged a one-day strike Thursday, June 23, claiming they are understaffed, overworked and lacking in supplies needed to adequately do their job.

Nearly 700 of the facility’s 1,200 nurses were on hand, wielding picket signs reading, “On Strike for Safe Patient Care.”

The nurses, represented by the California Nurses Association/National Nurses United (CNA/NNU), say their ranks are thinning at an alarming rate.

“In the last four months, we have seen 50 nurses leave our hospital due to the poor working conditions that put patient care in jeopardy,” said Tinny Abogado, who has worked as a registered nurse at LAMC for 20 years. “It pains me to see experienced nurses leave our hospital.”

When they walk out the door, they take their knowledge and expertise in patient care with them, she said.

The nurses say patient care is compromised when they are expected to care for too many sick patients without help from ancillary staff, and to work without breaks. (Photo courtesy of California Nurses Association/National Nurses United)

Abogado said RNs often work 12-hour shifts without a break.

“They reach for supplies and they are just not there,” she said. “Kaiser made $8.1 billion in profits last year — they have enough money to make sure we have syringes when we need them, ancillary staff to help care for our patients and relief nurses to provide RNs with meal breaks.”

The nurses say patient care is compromised when they are expected to care for too many sick patients without help from ancillary staff, and to work without breaks.

Kaiser said it called in temporary nurses and shifted management staff into support roles to ensure that operations continued during the strike.

“We are disappointed that the California Nurses Association, which represents approximately 1,200 nurses at our Los Angeles Medical Center, is calling on our nurses to walk away from their patients’ bedsides,” Kaiser said in a statement issued late Wednesday. “We look forward to continued discussions at the bargaining table because it is the best way to resolve differences and reach a mutually beneficial agreement.”

The nurses’ labor contract expired Sept. 30, 2021 and they have been in negotiations for a new agreement ever since with little to no movement on key issues. They are calling on Kaiser to invest in nursing staff, ensure that every unit on every shift has appropriate supplies and invest in ancillary staff.

Kaiser acknowledged the COVID-19 pandemic has been “an incredibly challenging and stressful time to work on the front lines of health care.” Management said it continues to hire employees “at a rate that aligns with membership growth and need” while also offering tuition assistance for current employees, fellowships and residencies for future hires and grants to expand capacity in degree programs.

Helen Mushegian, who has worked at LAMC for three years, said day-to-day operations can be hectic.

“We feel like we’re running from room to room in a marathon from the beginning of our shift to the end,” the 26-year-old Los Angeles resident said. “I got into nursing to deliver excellent patient care. But without the resources, supplies and the ancillary staff that’s needed we’re not able to do our best.”

Nurses say some units don’t have enough syringes, kits used for starting IVs and other supplies.

“This work is physically, mentally and emotionally taxing because we use our bodies and minds entirely in the course of caring for our patients,” said Bryan Telfort, an ICU nurse. “We need and deserve to take an uninterrupted meal break that will allow us to relax and regroup so we are energized and refreshed to provide the best care.”

California

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