Long Beach nurses rally to address understaffed hospital, call for MemorialCare leadership to settle contract


Image courtesy California Nurses Association

Nurses from the Long Beach Medical Center (LBMC) and Miller Children's and Women's Hospital (MCWH) participated in a rally on the corner of Atlantic Avenue and 27th Street Tuesday, Nov. 19 to demand MemorialCare officials for a "fair contract."

Nurses from the Long Beach Medical Center (LBMC) and Miller Children’s and Women’s Hospital (MCWH) participated in a rally on the corner of Atlantic Avenue and 27th Street Tuesday to demand MemorialCare officials for a “fair contract.”

Nurses claim that the hospital is short staffed, and that it is “eroding” patient care and leading to a high turnover rate of experienced nurses, the California Nurses Association (CNA) said in a press release. In addition, the union group claimed “many new nurses are being asked to work in units without the appropriate training which puts patient safety in jeopardy.”

The Signal Tribune spoke with Chief Nursing Officer Tony Garcia and Vice President of Human Relations Marcie Atchison for MemorialCare via a conference call Wednesday night about those claims just as another negotiation meeting was taking place.

Garcia said there have been 40 negotiation meetings since January this year.

During the call, Garcia admitted that the hospital has found itself short staffed at times, however, a state law–– Title 22–– mandates a certain number of nurses on staff, which Garcia said the hospital is meeting. As an example, Garcia said that nurses working in a medical-surgery unit (MedSurg unit) can care for no more than five patients.

“To be fair and transparent, we do struggle, at times, to hire nurses, and this is something that is not unique to our location,” he said. “This is something that happens everywhere across the nation.”

Garcia explained that nurses are often pulled from other duties to help patients first, something MemorialCare officials said is their top priority. Because of that transition, it may be perceived that there is understaffing situations that may impact patient care, Garcia said.

“When it comes to patient care, we have the correct and appropriate number of nurses taking care of those patients,” he said.

Alejandra Zavala, a nurse working the orthopedic-neurology unit at MemorialCare Long Beach Medical Center, participated in Tuesday’s rally and spoke with the Signal Tribune about their claims.

“A lot of our nurses are concerned about understaffing,” Zavala said. “It’s really hard to care for these patients when we’re understaffed–– when we’re being put out of ratio, which means we have to take more patients than we’re supposed to.”

She added that patients are being moved to other units in the hospital to undergo certain life-saving services, however, Zavala claims that some of the nurses on these floors are not certified to do such tasks.

An example she gave was a neurology-stroke scale procedure that alerts nurses if the patient is experiencing stroke symptoms, or if medical teams need to notify a doctor about the patient’s condition. Zavala claimed that MemorialCare “refuses” to certify nurses on other hospital floors, thus experienced certified nurses have to take on more calls for stroke patients.

Zavala said she does not want to feel like she is in a fight with MemorialCare, but she is urging officials to think about how their concerns may impact patient care.

During the conference call Wednesday night, Atchison said that more bargaining meetings are being planned and that she is “pleased with the progress.”

“We’re down to a handful of issues, but we’ve made significant progress,” she said. “We’re down to the wire of the last articles that we’re going back and forth about, so we’re very hopeful that we’ll get a contract here soon.”