Bay Area nurses prepare for strike at Sutter Hospitals

( OAKLAND, Calif. — Bay Area nurses were preparing to go on strike at eleven Sutter Hospitals in the Bay Area Wednesday morning for a one-day action that is expected to last five days.

This is the fourth time the nurses have put up a picket line.

“There’s been some cuts to the community that Sutter has done and we’re out tomorrow protesting those cuts,” said Rochelle Pardue-Okimoto, a nurse at Alta Bates Summit Medical Center.

Some 4,400 nurses with Sutter Health are expected to walk off their jobs. They’ve held similar walkouts in September, December and May.

Nurses told KTVU they’re upset because the company wants to take away large portions of their long-standing contracts.

“There are over 80 takeaways on the table,” argued Joanne Jung of the California Nurses Association. “It would be virtually gutting every provision in that contract.”

The union said Sutter Health’s proposed cuts include eliminating paid sick leave, requiring nurses to pay higher health coverage costs, mandatory overtime and no coverage for retirees and part-time nurses.

A Sutter Health advertisement said nurses on average make $136,000 a year. It said in part: “The union is asking for costly benefits, like double-digit wage increases and free health care for life that would increase the cost of health care for patients by millions of dollars.”

Nurses argued those numbers are wrong.

“I’m not walking because I want a raise. We’ve asked to maintain the contract we have,” said Alta Bates Summit Medical Center nurse Ann Gaebler.

In the midst of the battle are family members and patients wondering what care they’ll will receive when the nurses walk.

Nancy Costello is the relative of a patient who expressed concerns.

“He just got finished major surgery,” said Costello.

Hospitals such as Alta Bates said they’ll be fully staffed with replacement nurses who require a five-day contract until June 18th.

The hospitals affected are the three Alta Bates Summit Facilities in Berkeley and Oakland, two Mills-Peninsula Hospitals in Burlingame and San Mateo, Eden Medical Center In Castro Valley, San Leandro Hospital, Sutter Delta in Antioch, Sutter Solano in Vallejo and Novato Community Hospital.

Nurses are also striking at Petaluma Valley Hospital which is not owned by Sutter.