Nurses at 13 Sutter hospitals plan two-day strike

Roughly 5,000 nurses should walk off the job today and tomorrow at Sutter Health-affiliated hospitals in California. This follows a previous two-day walkout by the nurses in October. Affected hospitals include California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco, Alta Bates Summit Medical Center in Berkeley and Oakland, and Burlingame's Peninsula Medical Center.

The nurses, who are represented by the California Nurses Association, have been in negotiations with the hospitals since October, but talks have reached an impasse. The nursing union and Sutter are still arguing over health insurance and retirement benefits for nurses, work schedule and nurse-to-patient ratios. Meanwhile, Sutter officials say that there won't be any operational problems during the strike; hospital administrators have hired replacement nurses who will take up the slack during the walkout. (Of course, replacing experienced staff nurses with outsiders unfamiliar with a hospital's set-up poses risks of its own, but that's not something the execs are likely to brag about.)

To find out more about the issues:
- read this Associated Press item

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