Sierra Wave Media

Eastern Sierra News for June 14, 2024

 

 

 

 

By Deb Murphy

Caregivers at Northern Inyo Hospital are organizing a union “to maintain the care and safety of patients and retain experienced staff” according to a press release sent out Sunday.

Tthe NIH Union Organizing Committee   Members are (l to r) Susan Tonelli (ER), Heleen Welvaart (Med Surg), Denise Morrill (ER), Betty Wagoner (RHC), Anneke Bishop (OB), Kathleen Schneider (Med Surg), Christine Hanley (Med Surg), Maura Richman (OB), Cynthia McCarthy (ICU), and Laurie Archer (PACU).  Not present: Gloria Phillips (PACU), and Eva Judson (OB). - Photo submitted

Tthe NIH Union Organizing Committee Members are (l to r) Susan Tonelli (ER), Heleen Welvaart (Med Surg), Denise Morrill (ER), Betty Wagoner (RHC), Anneke Bishop (OB), Kathleen Schneider (Med Surg), Christine Hanley (Med Surg), Maura Richman (OB), Cynthia McCarthy (ICU), and Laurie Archer (PACU). Not present: Gloria Phillips (PACU), and Eva Judson (OB). – Photo submitted

The union, part of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees will include registered nurses, nurse practitioners and physician assistants at the hospital.

The release cites the pressure under which staff is currently working. “Patient care needs and documentation requirements are increasing without an increase in time allowed to provide care,” the release states. According to information from the union organizing committee, the hospital has lost experienced staff due to the “policy of terminating employees whose medical treatment extends past 16 weeks and lack of scheduling flexibility to maintain a balance between work and family. “Caregivers are wondering if they will have the financial stability to remain in this area where they have homes and families,” the release states.

The committee acknowledg that CEO Victoria Alexander-Lane’s efforts to deal with financial issues at NIH have merit, but stress that Lane has not had enough input from caregivers “who will be on the front line implementing changes in delivering patient care.”

Other goals outlined in the release include nurturing new nurses in a safe culture, involvement in NIH’s financial stability and supporting other employees at the hospital. According to the release, NIH is the last major employer in the county without a union.

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Following is the complete press release

Registered Nurses, Nurse Practitioners, and Physician Assistants at Northern Inyo Hospital are organizing a union as part of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees.

We are doing this to maintain the care and safety of our patients, to retain experienced staff and nurture new nurses in a safe culture, to be involved in NIH’s financial stability, and to support the other employees at the hospital who are part of our team. Northern Inyo Hospital is a community hospital with a history of great patient care.

We frequently hear from patients, “I never get this level of care and attention down south.” We provide safe care with a low rate of infection and adverse events. It is an entire team of workers who provide this care, from the person that greets you at the front desk to the doctor making a life-saving diagnosis. That team is under great pressure. Patient care needs and documentation requirements are increasing without an increase in time allowed to provide care.

Having the time to hold the hand of a dying patient, to comfort a sick child, or to help a mother bring a baby safely into the world, cannot be measured in a cost/benefit ratio. We have lost experienced caregivers because of the policy of terminating employees whose treatment for a major medical diagnosis like cancer extends beyond 16 weeks.

Nurses have left because they were not allowed the scheduling flexibility to maintain a balance between work and family. Caregivers are wondering if they will have the financial stability to remain in this area where they have homes and families. For the past decade financial pressures have been tightening on the hospital. Friends tell us they go elsewhere for care because of the cost locally.

Our current administration is addressing our financial future in a proactive manner, increasing patient census, and cutting the cost of procedures and lab work. CEO Victoria Alexander-Lane’s proposals for a strategic plan have merit, but she has not had enough input from the caregivers who will be on the front line implementing changes in delivering patient care.

The decision to form a union was not an easy one. Northern Inyo Hospital is the last major employer in the county without a union to provide a voice for employees. We will be negotiating, not for special treatment for union members, but for fair treatment for everyone, with a guiding principle of maintaining excellent and safe care of patients.