Press Release: Humboldt County hospital workers to picket today amid growing staffing crisis

August 22nd, 2019

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: August 22, 2019
Contact: Matthew Artz, 510-435-8035, martz@nuhw.org

Picket is part of a Day of Action by workers at Providence St. Joseph hospitals throughout Northern California demanding contracts that secure safe-staffing as Providence seeks merger with Adventist Health.

Hospital workers will picket outside Providence St. Joseph hospitals in Northern California to demand contracts that provide safe staffing as Providence seeks state approval to merge its Northern California hospitals with several belonging to Adventist Health.

WHAT: Picket outside St. Joseph Hospital, Eureka

WHEN: August 22, 2019 – 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

WHERE: St. Joseph Hospital, Eureka, 2700 Dolbeer St., Eureka

In a survey conducted by the National Union of Healthcare Workers, 92 percent of bedside caregivers at Providence St. Joseph hospitals throughout Northern California reported that their shifts are understaffed at least once a week. Nursing assistants reported having to care for as many as 20 patients at a time.

Instead of using its resources to fix the problem, Providence is demanding in contract negotiations the unlimited right to cancel caregivers’ shifts even though that would only worsen the understaffing crisis.

“We can’t provide quality patient care if we don’t have enough caregivers,” said Vincent Guevara, a pharmacy technician at St. Joseph Eureka. “And the hospital won’t be able to retain quality workers if we can’t make enough to help support our families.”

Providence St. Joseph Health, the nation’s third largest non-profit health system, was formed by the 2016 merger of Providence Health & Services with St. Joseph Health, which operated St. Joseph Eureka and Redwood Memorial hospitals as well as Queen of the Valley Medical Center in Napa, Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital and Petaluma Valley Hospital in Sonoma County.

In 2017, those hospitals reported combined profits exceeding $126 million, yet Providence laid off more than 70 caregivers and failed to meet state-mandated requirements for providing charity care for patients who couldn’t afford medical bills. Now Providence wants to merge its Northern California hospitals with several belonging to Adventist Health, which would reduce services at St. Helena Hospital in Napa County, where the new company would have a monopoly on acute care hospitals.

“The bigger Providence St. Joseph gets, the less responsive it is to the needs of our community,” said Mikkel Foisy, a radiology technician at St. Joseph Eureka. “Now is the time for everyone to hold this corporation accountable for safely staffing its hospitals and investing in patient care.”

Providence St. Joseph is the nation’s fourth-largest Catholic health system with 51 hospitals and 829 clinics. Adventist Health operates 20 hospitals and more than 280 clinics.