By Jason KUROSU
After USC Verdugo Hills Hospital nurses voted recently to approve potential strike measures, a group of nurses made what they termed as one final plea to hospital management on Tuesday, bringing their grievances to the office of USC President C.L. Max Nikias.
Among the documents the nurses delivered to Nikias’ office were 1,300 signatures from members of the community in support of the nurses, signatures from a majority of the nurses in the California Nurses Association union, letters of support from Senator Carol Liu and Assemblymember Mike Gatto, and letters from 20 doctors at USC Verdugo Hills Hospital detailing unsafe working conditions from a shortage of qualified nurses.
The nurses also delivered a similar package to USC President Emeritus Steven B. Sample’s office. Neither USC official spoke with the nurses directly on Tuesday.
Dinorah Williams, California Nurses Association labor representative, said, “We want to give them every opportunity to get a clear understanding of our position.”
Negotiations between the nurses’ union and the hospital have progressed, though Williams said the key issues of “patient care, nurse recruitment and retention” have not been properly addressed.
For the better part of a year, the hospital’s nurses have protested on numerous fronts regarding what they considered insufficient patient care, such as a lack of a 24-hour pharmacy. At present, a “mass exodus” of the regular nurses has left the hospital mostly staffed with temporary traveler nurses, which Williams said is insufficient for proper patient care.
Kathy Carter, a retired nurse and La Crescenta resident who joined the group of nurses at USC, said that traveler nurses are given minimal orientation on proper procedure and familiarity with the hospital. Orientation for these nurses reportedly lasts as briefly as an hour while regular nurses’ orientation typically lasts seven weeks.
Among the unsafe conditions reported by the nurses are too few nurses for the number of patients present at any given time. According to the nurses, on a daily basis nurse-to-patient ratios are not in compliance with the legal ratios dictated by the California Code of Regulations.
“They’re breaking the law and getting away with it,” said Carter.
Williams said that it is a “lack of urgency” on the part of USC that is most troubling for the nurses.
“Patient care is being neglected and highly compromised and the nurses there are being coerced to violate the law,” said Williams.