St. Mary nurses picket for safer workplace – says 370 nurses have quit since 2021

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APPLE VALLEY – Registered nurses at Providence St. Mary Medical Center held an informational picket, today, to protest the administration’s refusal to address concerns about unsafe staffing and poor working conditions. 

The California Nurses Association (CNA), a union representing 650 St. Mary nurses, says since 2021, more than 370 nurses have left the hospital due to unsafe staffing throughout the hospital. 

Long wait times

According to CNA, patients in the ER are waiting up to 8 hours for care. They wait up to 48 hours for a bed if they are admitted. In addition, nurses are concerned that the administration has applied for Level IV trauma center status when the hospital cannot retain nurses to adequately staff it now. 

“St. Mary has no excuses for their unsafe practices and the large number of RNs leaving our hospital,” said St. Mary Medical Center ICU nurse Stacy Teal. “The community deserves better. When you come to a hospital run by a large profitable health care corporation, you expect top-of-the-line patient care. That is not what you get when you come to St. Mary. Instead, you will find nurses stretched to their limits and inadequate resources.”

Nurses say management is ignoring the hospital’s own staffing standards and disregarding how sick a patient is — in patient assignments. The number of a nurse’s assignments should go down when they include these types of patients. The nurses say that is not happening. 

CNA says nurses have attempted to address their concerns through meetings with the hospital’s chief nursing officer. Their concerns about patient safety, optimal patient care, and safe staffing remain unresolved.

Progress on bargaining sessions

Providence St. Mary Medical Center spokesperson Matthew Cabe says eight bargaining sessions have been held. He says Providence St. Mary and CNA are making progress and reached tentative agreements on 26 items. 

“In addition to our progress in the bargaining process, it’s important to note a few facts that are relevant to the reasons the union has given for holding this informational picket,” said Cabe. “We do everything possible to minimize patient wait times in our Emergency Department.”

Cabe says from the time a patient enters the department and registers to when they are initially seen by a physician is typically around 15 minutes. The average length of stay for a patient who is seen and discharged out of the Emergency Department is about 180 minutes. 

“Providence St. Mary Medical Center consistently works to increase employee retention and reduce turnover rates, which benefits both our patients and our workforce,” said Cabe.

He says the turnover rates for the last year have been consistent with the national average for nurses at hospitals in the U.S.

Nursing Shortage Myth

According to CNA, many hospitals point to a nursing shortage to address under staffing concerns.

However, they say that the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that there are more than a million registered nurses with active licenses who are choosing not to work at the bedside.

“The reality is that RNs are moving into health care settings like outpatient clinics and doctors’ offices, confirming the need for better retention measures that improve their working conditions in acute-care hospitals,” said CNA in a March 2023 news release.

Providence St. Mary Medical Center RN in case management Michelle Stuebe says the hospital needs to retain longtime experienced nurses who help mentor new nurses. 

“New grads will stay if they can get the support they need,” said Stuebe.

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