A file photo of medical staff walking through a hospital in Orange County, Calif. (John Fredricks/The EpochTimes)
WEST HILLS, Calif.—Unionized nurses at West Hills Hospital in Los Angeles are set to walk off the job Nov. 22 to show their discontent with working conditions after six months of negotiations with the facility’s corporate ownership.
According to Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 121 registered nurses (RN), the strike began at 7 a.m. Nov. 22 and will continue until Nov. 27 at 7 a.m.
The West Hills hospital workers’ stoppage will coincide with similar ones at Riverside Community Hospital and Los Robles Regional Medical Center in Thousand Palms—all of them owned by Nashville-based Healthcare Corporation of America.
For Nov. 22, first day of picketing at West Hills, an array of elected officials is expected, including state Sen. Caroline Menjivar and Assembly members Chris Holden, Luz Rivas, Pilar Schiavo, and Adrin Nazarian, according to SEIU spokesman Hal Weiss.
SEIU Local 121 registered nurses represents about 400 nurses at West Hills Hospital, Mr. Weiss said.
Pickets are expected to run from 7 a.m. to noon daily over the five-day period, with curtailed hours on Thanksgiving.
“We are disappointed by SEIU 121RN leadership’s decision to strike as it is absolutely unnecessary, given the serious efforts we have invested in bargaining since May. It’s evident the labor union has not taken these sessions seriously and has intended to strike all along, despite our genuine attempts at finding common ground,” Hospital Corporation of America (HCA) Healthcare Southern California said in a statement released Nov. 22.
“Our hospitals have taken proactive measures to provide high-quality health care for our patients and our communities throughout a strike. We are drawing on the resources of our nationwide HCA Healthcare system to ensure each hospital is fully operational. Our doors will remain open throughout any labor union activities and, importantly, there will be no closure of any services at this time.”
West Hills Hospital in Los Angeles. (Google Maps/Screenshot via The Epoch Times)
The picketing stems from stalled labor negotiations, which started in May, according to the union.
Nurses complain that nurse-to-patient ratios are creating a “system-wide crisis” because units are understaffed, according to an SEIU statement.
“We are here to care for our patients with the same dedication and excellence as always,” HCA Healthcare Southern California said in a statement.
The union said that, over the last three years, California Department of Public Health officials determined there had been hundreds of staffing violations at each of the medical facilities.
“On many hospital units, patient sitters—who carefully monitor patients and intervene to prevent falls and injuries—are replaced by off-site virtual sitters, who watch patients on a video monitor and can only give verbal instructions, often to patients who are confused or facing emotional crisis,” according to an SEIU statement. “Nurses say that this system is woefully inadequate to help patients who can inadvertently, or intentionally, harm themselves.”
Other complaints include what the union says are deficient security to prevent workplace violence, the prevention of union representatives from entering some facilities to communicate with members, and “disinformation” circulated by administrators related to a previous work stoppage in 2020.
There was no specific mention regarding salary and benefit hikes, though SEIU 121RN Executive Director Rosanna Mendez pointed out that “working people everywhere are demanding recognition for their sacrifice, and that sentiment is strongly felt by health care workers.”
It was unclear how the hospital would handle staffing, or whether any shortages are anticipated as a result of the labor action during the holiday period.