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5,000 California nurses protest staffing issues, lack of mental health support

By Ashley Williams
Nurses and health care workers picketed last week over health and safety issues at 18 sites of Sutter Health across Northern California. File Photo courtesy of National Nurses United.
Nurses and health care workers picketed last week over health and safety issues at 18 sites of Sutter Health across Northern California. File Photo courtesy of National Nurses United.

April 25 (UPI) -- About 5,000 hospital nurses in Palo Alto, Calif., went on strike Monday, demanding a new labor contract offering better staffing and mental health support.

Since March 31, nurses at Stanford Health Care and Lucile Packard Children's Hospital had been working under an expired contract after negotiations with hospital officials stalled.

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Monday's walkout is a first in over 20 years for the Committee for Recognition of Nursing Achievement, the union representing nurses at both Stanford and Packard, the San Jose-based Mercury News reported.

Negotiations came to a standstill after Stanford's management's failure to agree to terms addressing the nurses' problems, including the shortages, supporting patient care, according to the strikers.

Union president Colleen Borges said strikes are the last resort for the union's nurses, according to the Mercury News.

"We are prepared to stand strong and make sacrifices today for the transformative changes that the nursing profession needs," said Borges, who is a Packard Children's Hospital pediatric oncology nurse.

"We hope to get back to work quickly under fair contracts that acknowledge nurses' contributions and support excellent patient care," she said, adding that burnout and exhaustion are leading some nurses to reconsider their jobs and professions.

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The nurses join thousands across the country who have recently spoken out against poor staffing benefits, pay and quality of life that the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated.

Last week, Over 8,000 staff walked out of more than a dozen Northern California-based Sutter Health locations after months of negotiations over staffing and health protections stalled.

Stanford Health Care and Lucile Packard Children's Hospital -- which will meet for a formal bargaining session on Tuesday -- shared in an update on Sunday that negotiations including new proposals, like a 5% wage increase, had made "no meaningful movement" by the end of that day.

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