Health & Medicine

500 nurses in SLO County will go on strike this week. Here’s what you need to know

More than 500 nurses will go on strike in San Luis Obispo County on Friday, as the nurses union pushes for increased staffing at local hospitals.

Nurses with Sierra Vista Regional Medical Center in San Luis Obispo and Twin Cities Community Hospital in Templeton — both owned by Tenet Healthcare — will go on a 24-hour strike starting at 7 a.m. The strike will continue into Saturday morning.

Nurses with other Tenet Healthcare facilities throughout California, Arizona and Florida will also be striking at the same time to urge management at those hospitals to invest more resources into nursing staff.

“Basically, we are advocating for our patients,” Janice Ames, a registered nurse at Sierra Vista Regional Medical Center, told The Tribune on Tuesday. “We want to give them the best possible care we can and we believe that a good contract is an effective tool to recruiting and retaining nurses. Without enough nurses we can’t give great patient care.”

All together, more than 5,000 nurses are expected to participate in the strike nationwide.

According to Ames, the California Nurses Association has been contract negotiations with Tenet Healthcare for about 12 months, and the union finally recently reached the point where they felt a strike was necessary.

In May, registered nurses with Tenet-affiliated hospitals across California — including Sierra Vista Regional Medical Center and Twin Cities Community Hospital — staged protests outside their facilities, asking for more investment in nursing staff.

The local chapter of the union is asking for more recruiting of nurses to the Central Coast, as well as increased staffing to prevent RN fatigue, Ames said.

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Nurses at Tenet hospitals throughout California, including Sierra Vista Regional Medical Center on Santa Rosa Street in San Luis Obispo, picketed in May to pressure management to hire more nurses. David Middlecamp

Increasing nursing staff would help to give all RNs adequate meal and rest breaks, as well as cut down on mandatory overtime in which they are called back to the hospital beyond their normally scheduled hours, she said.

“It’s very grueling work, emotionally and physically,” Ames said. “It’s very important for our RNs to have rest breaks, and we need the adequate staffing to do that.”

“Nurses are necessary,” Ames added.

In an emailed statement to The Tribune on Tuesday, Tenet said it will bring in temporary replacement nurses to staff the hospital during the entirety of the strike.

“We have been negotiating in good faith with union representatives over the last few months in an effort to reach a new contract,” read the statement. “We are disappointed that the union is taking this approach. We have made progress toward a new contract and will continue to negotiate in hopes of reaching a successful resolution.”

The statement continued:

“We value our relationship with all our employees and we are committed to resolving the contract negotiations. While we respect the nurses’ right to strike, patients and their loved ones can be assured that our patients will continue to be cared for by qualified replacement registered nurses and other caregivers during any strike action.”

Ames echoed Tuesday that the union continues to work with Tenet to try to achieve a contract agreement before the strike takes place.

“We are still bargaining, and we still hope to reach an agreement,” she said. “That is our goal — to not have to strike.”

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Kaytlyn Leslie writes about business and development for The San Luis Obispo Tribune. Hailing from Nipomo, she also covers city governments and happenings in the South County region, including Arroyo Grande, Pismo Beach and Grover Beach. She joined The Tribune in 2013 after graduating from Cal Poly with her journalism degree.