Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Nurses, Lawsuits and H1N1

Only in the United States could a virus like H1N1 bring out the worst in medical politics and greed. We are facing a "pandemic" that requires coordination, communication and the best of medical practice. But what are we getting? Strikes, lawsuits and anything BUT putting patients first!

The strong nursing union, California Nurse Association (CNA), is taking this opportunity to call a strike on three large Catholic hospital chains (including 34 hospitals) throughout California and Nevada. The union bosses say the chief concerns are a lack of protective gear, improper isolation techniques and staffing that requires nurses to work (oh horrors!) 12 hour shifts during the flu crisis.

Although the nurses seem to want to walk out during a pandemic to "protect patients", the nurses in New York and Washington also filed a lawsuit over the idea that they should be required to get the flu vaccine. You can't have it both ways, nurses! You either want protection or you don't.

This is such an obvious smokescreen for contract negotiations, not H1N1 preparedness. Coincidentally, the CNA is in negotiations now with Catholic Healthcare West. How convenient! Since nurses in California already earn more than many physicians, this type of unprofessional bargaining rhetoric is nursing at it's worst!

By the way, most nurses in California hospitals work part time and receive full benefits. At a time when unemployment is at an all time high, nurses are receiving up to 6% pay raises due to union bargaining.

I respect nurses and believe in true collaboration for patient care, but as we prepare for flu season, this type of unprofessional, opportunistic behavior needs to be called out for what it is!


Anonymous said...

12 hour shifts is normal with the nurses I know who work in hospitals. I agree they should have their own choices about having both flu shots, but there certainly should be enough protective gear and isolation techniques provided at the job for physicians and all medical staff involved in contact with patients.
I know the CNA is stronger then in many other states but they should work out what is needed for HINI season WITHOUT STRIKING I agree about that.

I know of a case where a out of control patient was spitting at a nurse and would have also done it to a doctor if one was standing there at the moment.

This brings up what should a nurse do if she is pregnant and normally works in the hospital or ER or even a physicians office that could risk her and the unborn baby's health or life?

Rich said...

They may be on to something here. I guess I'm partial to nurses given that they helped coordinate/administer my moms CMO in her final hours this week.

Mike said...

When negotiations get to the point that a strike has to take place it means that both sides are digging in their heals and nobody is listening or talking. I have to say that after twenty-one years of nursing in several different venues I have seen over and over that nurses get the short end of the health care stick and physicians do not. Both jobs are difficult and have their hoop jumping to go through. I do know that the world of nursing politics is nothing short of cutthroat. It is sad to see. It is also why I am in the process of leaving the bedside becuase of all the nonsense that takes place in nursing and hospital based care.

Hopefully this strike by CNA will be short lived because as you mention the patients are the ones that will lose out more than others. I do not understand why health care providers from all walks of health care - to include administrators can not seem to work together for the common good.

ERMurse said...

CHW wants to oversimplify the issues involved by claiming that the H1N1 issue is a smokescreen to force a pay raise. Its a lot more than pay, we are not that far apart on the issue. Its about CHW's weak commitment to H1N1 protections. CHW claims they will follow all regulations. They wont put those regulations into their contract and are working to weaken those regs through the hospital association. Its about threatening discipline to Nurses who do not reuse their N95 Masks or not even providing those masks. Its about not backing your Nurses when they take action to limit exposure of others by properly isolating patients or limiting visitors. Its about denying responsibility for workers who become ill by denying work comp claims of Nurses who were likely to have been exposed at work. Its about how CHW’s call off policies have depleted the PTO or Vacation time of Nurses creating a hardship when they must take time off for personal or family illness. Its about a 50 year old Nurse at Mercy San Juan Hospital died from H1N1 and another CHW Nurse who lost her pregnancy after being hospitalized for H1N1 I wonder if CHW knows their Names?

Toni Brayer MD said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Toni Brayer MD said...

Rich: I am sorry about your mom and I agree that nurses are the backbone of the hospital and patient care.

Mike: Agree completely about strikes being the hallmark of failed negotiations on both sides. We so need good nurses at the bedside. I hope you can stick it out.

ERMurse: I expected to hear from nurses when I blogged this topic. Since the CDC is requiring N95 masks, most hospitals I know are requiring their use. When they are in short supply (all hospitals are scrambling to get them now) they do need to be reused. That doesn't seem like a worthy strike issue.

I don't know the details of the workmans comp and H1N1 that you described, but I believe there are many protections built into workmans comp and an illness acquired at work would certainly qualify.

Other issues that CNA has with CHW (PTO time, etc) should be handled through regular negotiations and not confused with the H1N1 issue.

Thanks for writing about your side of things.

Anonymous said...

Maybe someone should look at the research just done and published in JAMA this month which found that protection with a surgical mask against influenza appears to be similar to N95 respirators in routine healthcare settings. But it's not like the union to bring science or empirical data to the table. It's not really about the protection, it's about the money and leverage in negotiations. And it probably these same staff who want to strike over the masks that do not want to be vaccinated.

PookieMD said...

I think some of your comments are misplaced. 12 hour shifts may be common place, but that doesn't make them easy! As a physician, I hate 12 hour days, as does most of my group, as they are so demanding and draining. Nurses, and all health care professionals, deserve protective equipment. Even at the hospital where I work, we have gone through all sorts of different mask requirements. (I read the JAMA article that anonymous refers to.) However, I also agree that the timing of a strike is poor, and wonder if the H1N1 pandemic was just an excuse to strike. I feel your tone was a bit too strong--hospital nurses are underpaid and over worked,and disrespected! I feel that all parties involved need to behave civily, and that a strike is a huge black mark on all those involved.

Anonymous said...

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