NUHW members and nurses hold joint rally at Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital

September 28th, 2020

NUHW caregivers joined forces with registered nurses at Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital this month for a rally to demand more testing and stronger infection control measures amid a major COVID-19 outbreak.

The rally, which included several elected officials, was organized in response to a recent COVID-19 outbreak that has infected 26 hospital workers and as many as four patients.

News outlets that covered the rally included the Santa Rosa Press Democrat, KSRO, KCBS, KRON4, SFGate, Sonoma Valley Sun, KQED, KRCB and the North Bay Bohemian.

“Santa Rosa Memorial was too slow to recognize the outbreak and it hasn’t done nearly enough to make sure there won’t be another one,” said Allison Partington, a medical transporter who was exposed to the coronavirus, but denied a COVID-19 test by the hospital.

Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital is a 283-bed acute care hospital owned by Providence St. Joseph Health, the nation’s third-largest Catholic hospital chain. Santa Rosa Memorial has posted a $201 million operating profit over the last three fiscal years, yet is seeking takeaways in ongoing contract negotiations.

Speaking in support of workers were Sonoma County Supervisors Lynda Hopkins and Shirlee Zane, who told the assembled workers, “You put your lives in harm’s way every single day, the least thing they could do is take care of you.”

The COVID-19 outbreak, which has disproportionately impacted nurses and nursing assistants, started in “1 Center,” the hospital’s primary medical/surgery unit. While the hospital believes the outbreak dates back to August 6, it didn’t inform workers or start testing them until August 28. Earlier this month, another caregiver in the unit tested positive, forcing the hospital to isolate 19 patients and partially quarantine the unit once again.

The hospital still has not tested many of workers who routinely travel in and out of the affected unit, and management continues refusing to provide N95s to all caregivers who are treating patients suspected of having COVID-19 or that have already tested positive. Since the onset of the pandemic, Santa Rosa Memorial has also refused to test workers who reported having COVID-19 symptoms, making them get tested through taxpayer-funded sites that often take far longer to provide results.

Caregivers are calling on the hospital to implement a series of measures aimed at preventing another outbreak. Those measures include:

Providing N95s to all caregivers who are in the same room as a person suspected of having COVID-19 or a confirmed COVID-19 patient.

Immediately testing all caregivers who have been exposed to COVID-19 or show symptoms, and providing paid leave for all caregivers who must self-quarantine.

Providing free, regularly scheduled COVID-19 testing to all caregivers, not just in response to an outbreak.

Conducting comprehensive contact tracing by implementing room entry and transport logs for all patients who have COVID-19 or are suspected of having it.

Isolate care for all newly admitted patients until they receive their COVID-19 test result.

“The infection control measures at Santa Rosa Memorial were not strong enough to prevent a serious COVID-19 outbreak,” said Steven Batson, an anesthesia technician. “Santa Rosa Memorial must listen to its caregivers and take these common sense steps to protect us and our patients.”