Healthcare workers at Santa Rosa Memorial and Petaluma Valley hospitals are going on strike Thursday, June 9, and we're asking for your support. No one wants a strike, but St. Joseph Health's profit-driven approach to healthcare has left us no choice.
Since 2009, St. Joseph has reaped more than $242 million in profits from our local hospitals. These profits have come at a steep cost to our community. St. Joseph keeps staffing levels low in order to keep its profits high, and this has harmful effects on the quality of care we provide. St. Joseph cut its local nursing staffing levels by 15.5 percent between 2011 and 2014. According to the California Department of Public Health, these cuts have contributed to patient falls and increased risk of bedsores, infection and errors in patient care. The two hospitals recorded twice as many regulatory incidents per occupied bed than Sutter or Kaiser, and 10 times as many violations of state standards for quality care.
The staffing issues, combined with drastic benefit cuts and low wages, have sent morale plummeting and have made it difficult to recruit and retain experienced caregivers. On average, Petaluma Valley and Memorial caregivers make 25 percent less than Kaiser caregivers and 9 percent less than those at Sutter. And while St. Joseph has been posting huge profits, the corporation implemented severe cuts to retirement benefits for Petaluma caregivers and has threatened to do the same to Memorial workers.
We've proposed three simple solutions: (1) establish staff-to-patient ratios and an acuity-based staffing system to ensure that we can deliver timely, quality care; (2) establish patient-care committees composed of caregivers and hospital managers to solve staffing problems; and (3) make pay and benefits competitive with Sutter and Kaiser in order to recruit and retain experienced caregivers.
These hospitals are part of our community, and many of us have devoted our working lives to them. We need to make sure they remain worthy of that devotion. Please support us on the picket line June 9.
In an abundance of caution, we are removing stories by freelance writer Joseph Mayton from Bohemian.com. Because he cannot provide notes for his stories or details about his interviewees, and in light of questions about his credibility in another publication, we are removing the material.
Last week's news story, "Mountain Top," had a couple of errors. Susan Gorin is not the current president of the Sonoma Board of Supervisors; she was the president in 2015. Also, Gorin did not pay expenses for a fundraiser at Chateau Sonoma; she received an in-kind contribution from its owner, Susan Anderson, to cover food and venue expenses. The online version of the article has been updated to correct these errors, which we regret.
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