By Mary O’KEEFE
At Sunday’s Harvest Market, several nurses from USC Verdugo Hills Hospital set up a booth and reached out to the community to share their concerns about the hospital and the working/patient conditions. They were asking the public to sign a petition they plan on presenting to the hospital administration in the near future.
“Today [Sunday] we have over 1,000 signatures and about 80% of the nurses from the hospital [signed],” said Dinorah Williams, California Nurses Association labor representative.
The nurses decided to come to the Harvest Market after negotiating with the hospital negotiation team since June. The VHH registered nurses voted to join the California Nurses Association/National Nurses Union in March 2014 by a 72% vote. In September 2014, a delegation of RNs delivered pillows and a petition to the executives at the hospital. The pillows represented their plea for better bedding and better beds.
“We did a demonstration and showed them the stained linens,” Williams said. “We talked about needed basic supplies.”
They also asked for a 24-hour pharmacy. The hospital pharmacy closes at 8 p.m.
“In the middle of the night, if a nurse has to mix medication [for a patient], they figure it out on his or her own,” she added.
On Sunday, RNs also shared their concern about the employment turn over at the hospital, which is disputed by USC VHH.
“I can tell you throughout the hospital the turn over is extremely high,” Williams said.
Malia Rodriguez, ICU RN at USC VHH, said the turn over is apparent.
“ICU lost five nurses and none of them have been replaced,” she said. Rodriguez added positions like case managers are being reduced from four to three.
“[Handling] the same case load,” she said.
Rodriguez and Williams said the hospital has “traveler” RNs who are there on a temporary basis to fill positions.
RN Mellanie Cusi, from USC VHH, said she is glad that the hospital is getting a renovation outside with new paint and remodeled rooms, but would like to see more money put into patient supplies and the workforce.
The nurses are in negotiations with the hospital for salary and benefit increases as well as the other issues.
Williams, who was in negotiations on Wednesday, said the union and hospital are still “far apart.” She said the RNs would like to be brought up to the same level in salary and benefits as other USC Keck hospitals. So they are taking their concerns to the street and the community.
USC VHH administration was contacted by CVW concerning the claims by the RNs. They responded in a statement below:
“USC Verdugo Hills Hospital continues to be dedicated to serving the Foothill communities where we have been a lifeline for local residents since 1972. We are committed to providing the highest level of patient safety and care – a commitment that unites our staff, physicians and administrators.
Since acquiring the hospital in 2013, USC has invested heavily in hospital infrastructure including improvements to the Emergency Department and our Maternal Child Health Departments, as well as a planned Cardiac Catheterization Laboratory. We are also in the midst of contract negotiations with the California Nurses Association, which was certified last year as the exclusive representative of hospital nurses and which is circulating the petition.
Contrary to the assertions in the petition, a recent patient satisfaction score for September through December 2014 shows USC Verdugo Hills Hospital in the 85th percentile for responsiveness to patient needs and in the 92nd percentile for cleanliness of patient rooms and bathrooms. In addition, we are accredited by DNV. In addition, we have retention rates at 9.4% for full and part-time nursing staff that is equal or below other community hospitals in Los Angeles County.
At USC Verdugo Hills Hospital, we value each and every staff member and, together, we remain a united team dedicated to the personalized care that our patients in the Glendale-La Cañada Flintridge neighborhood deserve and receive. We are confident that CNA shares our commitment to this community.”