Nurses organize a strike in San Bernardino

Nurses organize a strike in San Bernardino
Photo by Rusty Watson / Unsplash

On Thursday, a group of nurses at the Community Hospital of San Bernardino picketed outside the hospital for better working conditions. The San Bernardino nurses joined a larger day of action organized by the California Nurses Association, an affiliate of National Nurses United.

The nurses decided to picket after what they said had been months of leadership’s refusal to address worker injuries in the behavioral health units and ongoing short staffing throughout the hospital.

The nurses say that violence is on the rise at the Community Hospital. Nurse Clayton Dezan, who works in the Behavioral Health Unit, said the hospital averages about four violent actions by patients per month.

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Many of the nurses expressed concerns that Dignity Health, the healthcare network that operates the hospital, is prioritizing saving money over the safety of the nurses. Nurses say more staff would give them more opportunities to recognize and de-escalate violent behavior from patients.

“We've had a staff member stabbed by a patient. We've had patients break staff's legs, and knees have been dislocated. The staff had black eyes, they’d been bitten. We've actually had a staff’s jaw broken,” said Dezan.

The nurses also alleged that the hospital administration has failed to implement a workplace violence program, failed to provide a designated security guard in each behavioral health unit at all times, and failed to create a violent incident log available to record every violent incident that employees experience.

Virginia Licerio has been a nurse at Community Hospital for 33 years. She said the changes in workplace safety have been gradual and were exasperated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“They just continue to use that reason [COVID] why we're short-staffed. It's not that we're short of nurses. The nurses don't want to work under unsafe conditions,” said Licerio.

She said she’s afraid to come to work because of the threat of violence.

“Patients— they're not getting the treatment that they need right away. So they're getting upset. They're getting angry,” said Licerio.

She said more staffing would help patients get care more quickly and potentially help them avoid violent incidents altogether.

A hospital spokesman for Dignity said in an email:

“Community Hospital of San Bernardino is deeply committed to the safety of our employees. We take workplace violence very seriously and any assault on a staff member is unacceptable. Unfortunately, hospitals across the country have seen a rise in violence and we are not immune. We are currently reviewing all safety measures to ensure a safe environment for everyone who enters our facility.

“Like all hospitals, the pandemic has led to a shortage of clinical and non-clinical staff members, especially nurses. To address this challenge, we have partnered with nursing and trade schools across the state to grow and diversify our workforce. We are aggressively recruiting new team members to reduce the impact on patient care services and will continue to work tirelessly to fill these open positions.”

Licerio said she hopes Dignity will provide more staff “so that we can take care of our patients safely and provide the community with what they deserve.”

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Written by Madison Aument for KVCR NPR

This article originally appeared in San Bernardino Nurses Picket for Safer Working Conditions

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