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San Gabriel Nurses Protest Over Wages And Staffing Shortages

Five masked healthcare workers, some wearing white lab coats or blue scrubs, stand underneath a tent set up as a mobile ICU clinic for COVID-19 patients.
Healthcare workers at a mobile COVID-19 ICU clinic.
(Chava Sanchez
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Registered nurses and healthcare workers protested working conditions at two San Gabriel Valley hospitals this morning. They chose this day, Día De Los Muertos, to picket at the San Gabriel Valley Medical Center and Whittier Hospital Medical Center, to remember those who have died from COVID-19.

At San Gabriel Valley Medical Center, respiratory therapist Julia Holguin said workers want a wage increase to cover the rising costs of health insurance premiums and prescription medications.

"If we have been loyal to our hospital, with great patient care and working all the extra hours that they ask us, we just want them to be fair," she said. "Listen to us and be honest.”

The California Nurses Association and the Caregivers and Healthcare Employees Union organized today’s informational pickets, saying that the hospitals have proposed increasing their employees out-of-pocket medical expenses by at least half.

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“Management cares more about profits than their patients and staff,” said Jaime Johnsrud, a registered nurse at Whittier Hospital Medical Center. “We went from heroes to zeroes.”

The unions say that chronic short-staffing is a critical concern for registered nurses at San Gabriel Valley Medical Center and Whittier Hospital, who they say are violating state laws mandating nurse-to-patient staffing ratios.

The unions representing 1,200 healthcare workers at the San Gabriel hospitals are currently negotiating a new labor contract to replace the one that expired in June. They are asking for wages to compensate for increased risk of working in the pandemic, a commitment to address staffing shortages, and more stringent COVID protocols.

Nurses across Southern California with similar concerns have recently protested. Earlier this month, a group of 21,000 nurses from Kaiser Permanente agreed to strike if a new contract cannot be agreed upon. Their most recent contract expired on September 30.

In July, 1,400 nurses from the Keck Hospital of USC and USC Norris Cancer Hospital, who have been negotiating their contract since November 2020, held a two-day strike over concerns of what they felt were unsafe working conditions.

LAist/KPCC has reached out to San Gabriel Valley Medical Center and Whittier Hospital Medical Center for comment.

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