Biz Buzz: Nurses union, CHW reach deal on H1N1 issues

The hospital chain that owns Arroyo Grande Community Hospital and French Hospital Medical Center in San Luis Obispo has reached a contract agreement with a key nurses union over safety issues involving H1N1, or swine flu.

Nurses from the San Francisco-based Catholic Healthcare West were planning to strike Thursday to protest what they said was a lack of preparedness for the swine flu.

CHW nurses planned the walkout over what their union said was the failure of the chain to assure adequate safety precautions for patients, their families, nurses and other health-care employees in the wake of swine flu, according to a statement from the California Nurses Association.

Megan Maloney, a spokeswoman for French, said staff members at the two local hospitals have always been trained appropriately.

“We have made sure that all safety measures and precautions are taken,” Maloney said.

The contract will essentially standardize hospital processes on handling patients diagnosed with H1N1, according to Lorna Grundeman, a union board member and a staff nurse at Dominican Hospital in Santa Cruz, a CHW facility.

Grundeman said nurses wanted to ensure that so-called N95 masks — the type that prevents the spread of H1N1 — were standard within the hospital system.

She claimed some training standards were not up to par, including how to properly wear masks and the correct way to dispose of used gowns and masks.

She said some CHW hospitals were following the procedures while some were not. Some hospitals were even reusing masks, she said.

Maloney said the local CHW hospitals have always stocked plenty of masks and provided training to its nursing staff.

There are 663 nurses represented by the California Nurses Association.

— Sona Patel

Milk substitute wins for innovation

Organic B.R.A.T., an organic, nondairy electrolyte drink, recently won the Most Innovative New Product award among 3,500 vendors at the Natural Products Expo East held recently in Boston.

To soothe a child’s upset stomach, pediatricians often recommend a diet of bananas, rice, applesauce and toast. B.R.A.T. is a liquid version of the diet, and it was developed by San Luis Obispo County residents Greg and Ilsa Toepfer when they needed a milk substitute to ease their young daughters’ nausea.

— Julia Hickey