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Chico nurses hold picket for patient safety

Registered nurses at Enloe Medical Center gathered for an instructional picket, demanding that management prioritize patient safety and address short staffing, inadequate PPE, and hospital preparedness for natural disasters.

Posted: May 14, 2021 6:43 PM
Updated: May 17, 2021 11:38 AM

Updated 10:35 a.m. May 15, 2021 - We have deleted a line from this story from Pamela Stowe of the California Nurses Association. Stowe had stated in our interview that she was a board member of Enloe Medical Center.

Enloe's Joe Page emailed Action News Now on Saturday morning and said Stowe is not on the board of Enloe Medical Center.

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CHICO, Calif. - On Friday, Registered Nurses (RN) at Enloe Medical Center gathered for an instructional picket, demanding that management prioritize patient safety and address short staffing, inadequate PPE, and hospital preparedness for natural disasters.

RNs at Enloe said management refuses to address these issues as well as infection control protocols for safe patient care during the pandemic, or hospital preparedness for natural disasters.

They want the hospital to guarantee this will all be addressed in the new contract negotiated with them.

The nurses have been bargaining for a new contract with Enloe since October 2020. The current agreement expired in March 2021.

"Enloe Medical Center is not coming to the bargaining table fairly," said Pamela Stowe, who is on the regional board of directors for CNA. "Not wanting to support the nurses, they haven’t throughout the entire pandemic... They want PPE they want safe practice that’s the main thing right there, they want safe care for their patients and themselves and Enloe doesn’t want to provide that."

"We’ve been at it since October but we really want that language that strong language in our contract about safety, that language will help protect us and our patients and nurses while they’re caring for them," said RN, Alma Gamboa-Applebee. 

Response from Enloe Medical Center Regarding CNA Informational Picket: 

Current State:

• Enloe is eager to get a new contract in place with the California Nurses Association, the union representing Enloe’s Registered Nurses.

• Enloe has been bargaining in good faith since October and will continue until we reach agreement with CNA.

• After both parties agreed to multiple contract extensions, the previous three-year contract expired March 9, 2021.

• Before the contract expired, Enloe suggested the parties seek assistance from a federal mediator to help move the process forward.

• CNA declined using a mediator at that point, however a few weeks after the contract expired, CNA agreed to this assistance. We hope to be able to report positive results in the coming weeks.

Outstanding issues:

• The parties have reached tentative agreement on several items at this point.
We continue to discuss the issue of wages. While there is no change proposed to the annual 3% step increase nurses receive, we are discussing additional wage scale increases for the future. Enloe has proposed a wage scale increase in years two and three of the contract. CNA is asking for a wage scale increase in year one as well.

• Enloe is working to balance an uncertain future related to the pandemic, in an environment of increasing prices, while recognizing and appreciating the hard work of all our caregivers. Our wage proposal takes this into account as we strive for equity among all Enloe employees.

• In addition to wage issues, we are still discussing two proposals from the union related to infectious diseases and natural disasters that would incorporate recent laws into the contract. Enloe already follows these laws, so it is unnecessary to include this language in the body of the contract. Laws change frequently, therefore it would be problematic to include this specific language as part of the CNA contract.

• Enloe values the sacrifices all caregivers throughout the organization have made during the COVID-19 pandemic and during previous regional disasters.

Regarding hospital safety:

• Enloe has met head-on every safety issue arising from the current pandemic, as we have done when previous disasters affected our region. We have more than 1,000 nurses and hundreds of physicians that continue to work hard providing safe care for our patients and we are proud of their efforts.

• In the early months of the pandemic, CNA made public accusations of unsafe hospital conditions across California at the risk of inciting public fear around hospital safety. These accusations may have resulted in patients delaying necessary care. Enloe Medical Center has been, and continues to be, one of the safest hospitals in the country as evidenced by government rating agencies that rank Enloe in the top 5% of hospitals in the U.S.

• We worked effectively in collaboration with Butte County Public Health to rapidly provide COVID-19 vaccines to both hospital employees and county residents. All healthcare workers and community members have had an opportunity to receive vaccination.

• When the number of COVID patients was rising and many California RNs were out on sick leave, Enloe maintained ratios, and did not take advantage of the state’s available waivers for staffing ratios. Instead, we brought in traveling nurses and followed our well-thought-out surge plan.

• Enloe has continually worked to ensure that registered nurses and other caregivers have the PPE they need to stay safe.

• Despite a global disruption in manufacturing and supply of medical supplies and equipment, Enloe has worked to secure lifesaving medicines and supplies regardless of the cost. Although this disruption lingers, we have faith that our procurement department will continue to secure the supplies we need to keep our employees and patients safe.

• Enloe remains compliant with current CDC and CDPH guidelines and provides regular education to staff to ensure their safety

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