Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital registered nurses plan to picket Dec. 13 | TheUnion.com

Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital registered nurses plan to picket Dec. 13

Sam Corey
Staff Writer

Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital registered nurses plan to hold an informational picket the morning of Dec. 13 on the hospital grounds in Grass Valley.

The picket is the result of the hospital’s decision to eliminate “essential charge nurse positions and cut nurses aide staff,” according to a news release from the California Nurses Association. The result has led to an increase workload for registered nurses, the release states.

According to the release, the change means replacing seasoned registered nurses who provide and assist other nurses in direct patient care with managers who do not direct patient care. The loss of charge nurses combined with cutbacks in nurses aide staff means a serious reduction in the capacity to care for patients, the release states.

“It does affect the quality of care that our patients receive,” Rachel Benoit, a registered nurse with the hospital’s emergency department, told The Union.

“Their first cut is staff and it should be the last thing.” — Rachel Benoit, Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital registered nurse

Nurse response times have been elongated due to the cuts, said Benoit, resulting in poorer care for patients, making them less safe and putting greater strain on nurses.

Benoit said nurses have confronted management multiple times about the issue, but with little result. She said their suggested solution is simple: hire more nurses, up to at least what the hospital had before cuts were made.

“Their first cut is staff and it should be the last thing,” said Benoit.

Some residents have recently requested more community input in how the hospital should be run amid recent layoffs. Those individuals wanted more investment in personnel with less money put into the hospital’s infrastructure.

Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital President and CEO Dr. Brian Evans said at the time the hospital could not invest less in its infrastructure and that the hospital does its best to balance the needs of patients. Evans did not respond to The Union’s request for comment by press deadline Tuesday, but discussed recent reductions in workforce with The Union last week.

“We recognize that reducing even a single position affects many people inside and outside our organization, and this is not a decision we take lightly,” Evans said.

AFTER THE MERGER

Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital is an affiliate of CommonSpirit Health, a $29 billion health system created in February through a merger between Dignity Health and Catholic Health Initiatives, according to the Houston Chronicle. As of February, the nonprofit based in Chicago was one of the largest in the country, owning 142 hospitals across 21 states.

A report from Modern Healthcare found that billion-dollar mergers have been criticized for sometimes raising prices and diminishing quality.

“Large systems that have duplicative (internet technology) systems, redundant leadership roles and higher legal and consulting fees are especially susceptible,” the report states.

The nurses association news release states to win approval of the merger by the California Attorney General, Dignity and CHI agreed to a number of conditions including a pledge “not to change or reduce the availability or accessibility of health services at any of its facilities.”

In August 2018, a public meeting was held locally to discuss the effect of the merger between Catholic Health and Dignity Health before it occurred. During the meeting, Laurie Harting, registered nurse and senior vice president of Dignity Health for Greater Sacramento, said the merger wouldn’t change anything.

“We do not expect jobs to be reduced as a result (of the merger) and there will be no consolidation — we will not be combining facilities,” she said.

Tammy Karnow, a registered nurse in the telemetry unit, said in the release that the nurses are holding a picket to let the public know how staff reductions are impacting care at the hospital and that they welcome the public’s support.

“The (registered nurses) at (Sierra Nevada Memorial) want to provide great care for the community,” Tracey Barbee, also a registered nurse in the telemetry unit, said in the release, “but current staffing conditions, including a fifty percent reduction in nurses aides on some shifts, jeopardizes our ability to provide quality care in a timely manner.”

Clarification: A previous version of this story misstated the relationship between Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital and CommonSpirit Health.

To contact Staff Writer Sam Corey email scorey@theunion.com or call 530-477-4219.


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