Caregivers Sound Alarm to Protect Patient Care, Safety, Workers' Rights at HCA Hospitals

More than 90% Vote for One-Day Statewide Strike on Friday, Dec. 3 to Protest Staffing Conditions and Unfair Labor Practices

Los Angeles, CA -- SEIU-UHW members are sounding the alarm over patient care, safety, and workers' rights issues at five HCA hospitals across California. Caregivers voted by more than 90% to engage in an unfair labor practice (ULP) strike on Friday, Dec. 3 to protest the way management has failed to put patient care first and has repeatedly violated caregivers' federal labor rights.

For nearly a year, 2,700 SEIU-UHW members across the five HCA hospitals in California have been trying to negotiate a contract with improved staffing, and pay and benefits that will recruit and retain experienced caregivers.

"The bottom line for SEIU-UHW members at HCA is patient care. We don't know what management's bottom line is, but we do know that we're short-staffed and patients are affected," said Susan Denardo, a Radiology Tech at HCA West Hills Medical Center and Hospital.

Unfortunately, instead of taking caregivers' proposals seriously, HCA management has negotiated in bad faith, made unilateral changes that may put workers and patients at risk, and begun a campaign of threats and intimidation of employees. Perhaps most significantly, they have made changes to staffing and infection control policies that affect patient and employee safety without consulting caregivers.

"Instead of working with us so we can take care of our patients the way we need to and negotiating a contract that improves staffing and care, HCA is going after our coworkers by threatening and intimidating them, and violating their rights. We need HCA to drop these illegal tactics and negotiate with us in good faith for real improvements," said Lauren Stewart-Roberts, a CNA at HCA Riverside Community Hospital.

In bargaining, caregivers proposed a staffing matrix that has been implemented at other hospitals to improve staffing and ensure patient and caregiver safety. The proposal was immediately rejected by management.

"We are so short-staffed that I recently ended up being a sitter for four patients. The hospital would not pay to have the one-to-one ratio that our patients need, even when one got very agitated and had to be restrained. We need a staffing matrix that guarantees we have enough caregivers on nursing floors," said Fely Ta-a, a CNA at HCA Regional Medical Center.

SEIU-UHW represents caregivers at all five (5) HCA hospitals in California: Good Samaritan Hospital and Regional Medical Center, both in San Jose; Los Robles Hospital and Medical Center in Thousand Oaks; Riverside Community Hospital in Riverside; and West Hills Medical Center and Hospital in West Hills.

The one-day strike is scheduled to begin at 6 a.m. on Friday, Dec. 3 and will end at 6 a.m. on Saturday, Dec. 4 at all five HCA hospitals.

About HCA

HCA is the most profitable hospital system in California. It is currently owned by private equity firm KKR but is expected to be taken public again soon through an initial public offering (IPO).

HCA announced in November that it is paying out $2 billion to shareholders, bringing the total payouts this year to $4.25 billion. Yet, across HCA's hospitals, caregivers are being flexed (sent home) or called-off of work before going in; workers who call in sick are not being replaced for the day; vacant positions are not filled or are filled with per-diem (daily) workers. All of this leaves nursing floors short on staff which may adversely affect patient care.

About HCA's Illegal Tactics

HCA has launched a campaign of threats and intimidation against workers who are standing up for a contract with strong protections for patients and workers. In one case, housekeeping employees at an HCA facility were told that they would be disciplined if they strike, violating their rights and protections under federal and state law to protest without fear of retaliation.

Management has made changes to working conditions that may put both caregivers and patients at risk. These "unilateral changes" include changes to the staffing levels for CNAs; increasing the number of patients per caregiver; changes to job descriptions for housekeeping workers to require them to lift up to 80 lbs.; and removing protective gloves, masks, and gowns from caregivers working in rooms where a patient is isolated due to contagious illness.

Finally, HCA has consistently bargained "in bad faith" by failing to provide relevant and necessary information that bargaining team members need in order to engage in meaningful negotiations, and by showing up to pre-scheduled bargaining sessions late or for only a few minutes.