NIH caregivers organizing a union

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.

 

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concerned town
concerned town
7 years ago

The central issue is the hospital is not being lead in a good direction. If employees work in fear, yes they are fearful for their livelihood, then something is wrong. I know nurses, employees and patients that are all saying the same thing. The quality of care is suffering because… Read more »

baRNone
baRNone
7 years ago

NIH staff morale is at an all-time low. There are more open positions than ever before, and not because they’re creating new jobs. The CEO displays no regard for staff well-being or the quality of life we value in our town. She is belittling to staff and her actions send… Read more »

Bob Todd
Bob Todd
7 years ago

To our valued website visitors: I have not published several anonymous comments that I thought were personal attacks, as opposed to general opinions – and I know that’s a fine line. Those comments that may be construed as personal were published under what I believed to be a real name,… Read more »

thank you
thank you
7 years ago

Thank you to the NIH nursing staff for getting this conversation started. I hope this will force the board of directors to start asking questions.

JollyGreak
JollyGreak
7 years ago

The nurses forming a union is a manifestation of staff distress and an effort to resist unfair and arbitrary administrative actions. Administration has disparaged almost everyone with inappropriate commentary and lies. The administration has lost credibility in just 10 months and is feared but not trusted or respected.

JollyGreak
JollyGreak
7 years ago
Reply to  JollyGreak

Above comment taken from knowledgeable pier who choses to be anonymous.

Keoni
Keoni
7 years ago

You do not want a nurse that is afraid to advocate, afraid to do extra work, for fear of being punished, and afraid to take decisive action for fear of discipline to work on you or your loved one. Their minds are no longer solely on caring for you. The… Read more »

JollyGreak
JollyGreak
7 years ago
Reply to  Keoni

Yea!! Incredibly pointed and honest.

Rick O'Brien
Rick O'Brien
7 years ago

An honest mechanic AND plumber are well worth what they charge…the trouble is, (finding) one.

Mary Richardson
Mary Richardson
7 years ago

It is interesting (to me) that many of the negative comments seem to be based on the misconception that the nurses are focused on their salaries/pay checks, and not on the issues they have actually raised: professional working conditions; adequate time to carry out essential assigned tasks in both patient… Read more »

nurs
nurs
7 years ago

I would also like to admit that my plumber and mechanic here in Bishop make double what I make per hour — but I sure do appreciate their services in an emergency!

nurs
nurs
7 years ago

Historically, nursing unions have been about money, but this issue isn’t about money. It is about patient safety and morale. The most polarized comments come from people whose basic opinion is — they should be happy, they make a lot of money. That is not the issue. In fact, management… Read more »

Keoni
Keoni
7 years ago
Reply to  nurs

Most of this stuff is just to cause attrition. The environment is poisonous.

JollyGreak
JollyGreak
7 years ago
Reply to  nurs

Right on “nurs”-you tell it like it is.

Jack T.
Jack T.
7 years ago

Yes, this is not about pay but since we’re on the subject I’d like to point out that for a small town, having a decent number of well-paid people including DWP, Edison, NIH etc, helps people like me who builds their homes, fixes their electrical or plumbing, repairs their car,… Read more »

Terry
Terry
7 years ago

Where is the board of directors on all of this?? They seem very quite. Seems like the CEO has them bound and gagged.

JollyGreak
JollyGreak
7 years ago
Reply to  Terry

Good one!!

Ben Holgate
Ben Holgate
7 years ago

I have seen extensive research on the inefficiencies of our healthcare system. The predominance of information available shows its primary failings to be inconsistent oversight and lack of regulation which has lead to over-prescription of drugs and radical invasive procedures coupled with completely insane billing practices. This is at the… Read more »

Jane
Jane
7 years ago

I’d suggest people go back and read the statement again, because you are missing the central issue. Nurses have a duty to their patients, as well as a legal duty to their license, to be strong patient advocates. Being a strong advocate means feeling safe, and even supported, when you… Read more »

patient
patient
7 years ago

This has nothing at all to do with pay. This is about respect, about protecting all hospital workers’ rights, about having some recourse to deal with the increasing harassment and intimidation on the part of an overpaid and incompetent administration. Every other public employer in the county is unionized, so… Read more »

tbone
tbone
7 years ago

So, would anyone complaining that NIH staff is overworked and underpaid care to provide us with some actual examples. I personally know several nurses who make close to 100k a year, which, for the amount of education required, seems excessive. Again, chime in if I’m wrong here. The staff at… Read more »

Joe
Joe
7 years ago
Reply to  tbone

tbone- Pay rates for nurses and other health care providers vary across the nation as a result of cost of living and demand. The cost of living is among the highest in CA. In order to recruit and retain qualified staff, hospitals need to offer competitive benefits. The cost of… Read more »

Notbuyinit
Notbuyinit
7 years ago
Reply to  tbone

The nurses at NIH are spoiled. I challenge anyone to find another facility that offers a 25% differential to work the night shift AND provides free meals. ( yes, 25%) Find one that offers “zero pay” so staff can still accrue benefits when called off due to a low census.… Read more »

thankyou
thankyou
7 years ago
Reply to  Notbuyinit

I’m not sure anyone gets free meals, sounds like you better do some fact checking.

And again, I don’t believe benefits or pay are the issue, it’s the crooked management practices that is causing fear in the community. IN THE COMMUNITY. Not just among the “spoiled” nurses.

saneinfw
saneinfw
7 years ago
Reply to  Notbuyinit

Notbuyinit, It sounds like you know a lot about the salary and working conditions for the nurses at NIH. Before we ask about the nurses’ government compliance, let’s also ask about other NIH departments’ adherence to lawful government standards. Before we condemn anyone for the financial health of NIH, let’s… Read more »

Reality Check
Reality Check
7 years ago

It will be interesting to see what labor negotiations achieve for these unionized workers. Most would consider NIH a Cadillac employer in terms of benefits. I know of many young nurses who would do anything to get hired at NIH. CA state law mandates 12 weeks for medical leave while… Read more »

Ickity
Ickity
7 years ago

Truly-I do know what I am talking about. A salary survey was done years ago at NIH and the nurses at NIH are very well compensated for their skills. This will end up costing the public more and the union will give the nurses a pay increase.

ilovebishop
ilovebishop
7 years ago
Reply to  Ickity

I believe the nurses at NIH are paid about what they are worth. they have a lot of responsibility. It is the extremely over paid upper management that should be causing concern. While all of the other employees have had their pay practically frozen, the new CEO has been given… Read more »

JollyGreak
JollyGreak
7 years ago
Reply to  Ickity

Nurse salaries are not a point of contention so you do not know what is wished for here in making the union move. It is about having a democratic environment instead of the communist methods that are being used now.

Charles O. Jones
Charles O. Jones
7 years ago
Reply to  Ickity

@Ickity, Maybe things have changed since the time of an alleged survey done “years ago”. I have a couple of family members who work in nursing and they would disagree with your contention that NIH nurses are overpaid. In fact they would consider moving to the Eastside but couldn’t afford… Read more »

John Barton
John Barton
7 years ago

The board of directors of NIH has let everyone down in the community by giving the CEO and other “upper management” basically untethered run of the mill access to do what she wishes. Bullying tactics are working because things are going the way of the CEO and not for patient… Read more »

Local
Local
7 years ago

Good for them! These underpaid nurses have a tough job that they do well!

Pat Rowbottom
Pat Rowbottom
7 years ago

“Heartless” never works in Bishop. How many administrators have I seen come and go when they had the attitude they would “change” Bishop ? This action demonstrates there is a morale problem, for sure. The Hospital Board needs to stand up for these workers.

Ickity
Ickity
7 years ago

Prepare for overpaid nurses to make even money and our only healthcare to go up as well.

Dr. Mike Dostrow
Dr. Mike Dostrow
7 years ago
Reply to  Ickity

Healthcare costs are outrageous because lobbyists bribe our crooked lawmakers to allow pharmacy, med tech and insurance companies to charge ludicrous amounts and enjoy astronomical profit margins. The people taking care of misinformed people like you actually make very little in comparison. They are, in fact, underpaid and overworked and… Read more »

Trouble
Trouble
7 years ago
Reply to  Ickity

Thank you Doctor!

JollyGreak
JollyGreak
7 years ago
Reply to  Ickity

It is not about the money. It is about staff having a voice, instead of being discounted. It is about nurses being involved in designing a staffing system that will allow the best care possible for patients. And it is about so much more…

Mildred
Mildred
7 years ago
Reply to  Ickity

This is what I think…..What is unfortunate is that the nurses couldn’t come to the table to begin with. To feel that they had to form a union takes time and effort. It doesn’t happen overnight. Administration had to know this was going on. Did admin even try to communicate?… Read more »