St. Joseph healthcare workers testify to declining conditions at Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital, Petaluma Valley Hospital

February 16th, 2016

Caregivers will speak about understaffing, increased turnover, noncompetitive wages, and threatened cuts to health and retirement benefits at Feb. 20 North Bay Jobs with Justice Workers’ Rights Board hearing

SANTA ROSA — Healthcare workers employed by St. Joseph Health System at Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital and Petaluma Valley Hospital will testify about declining working conditions at the two hospitals at a hearing convened by the North Bay Jobs with Justice Workers’ Rights Board.

The hearing will take place from 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. on Saturday, February 20, at Christ Church United Methodist, 1717 Yulupa Ave., Santa Rosa.

St. Joseph caregivers represented by the National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW) will speak about understaffing that undermines the quality of care provided at the two hospitals; noncompetitive wages that make it difficult to recruit and retain experienced staff; threatened cuts to workers’ healthcare and retirement benefits; and increased turnover as workers leave for jobs at other local hospitals.

Both St. Joseph hospitals report healthy profits — a combined $59.1 million in 2014. Petaluma Valley brought in $3.2 million in profit in 2014 and Santa Rosa Memorial made $55.8 million — a 14.8 percent profit margin that was more than twice the average for California hospitals. St. Joseph executives are doing well too. The health system paid its top three Sonoma County executives more than $1.2 million in 2014.

But despite its hefty profit margins, St. Joseph has reduced staffing levels at both facilities and has forced drastic cuts to the healthcare and retirement benefits on Petaluma Valley Hospital workers while threatening to do the same to Santa Rosa Memorial workers.

“It doesn’t make sense,” said Patricia Barnett, a Petaluma Valley radiology tech. “Both hospitals are doing great financially, St. Joseph as a whole is doing great financially, but they’re short-staffing the hospitals, holding our wages down, and cutting our benefits.”

“Memorial Hospital used to be the gold standard — everyone wanted to work here,” said Denise Tillman, a 21-year financial counselor at the hospital. “But now people are leaving for better jobs at Sutter and Kaiser.”

Santa Rosa Memorial is a large acute care hospital and the region’s designated Trauma Center. It has long had a reputation as one of the North Bay’s top hospitals but has been losing ground to both Kaiser Permanente and Sutter Health, which opened a state-of-the-art facility on Mark West Springs Road in 2014. Petaluma Valley is a district hospital whose lease to St. Joseph is currently under review due to concerns about staffing and working conditions and a competitive bid from Prime Healthcare Services.

NUHW-represented workers at both hospitals requested that the Workers’ Rights Board conduct a hearing and investigate their complaints. The WRB is a public forum where workers can bring complaints against employers and institutions for violating their human and legal rights and expectations of fair treatment at the workplace. The WRB consists of leaders and professionals of faith, labor, and community organizations of the North Bay. After the hearing the board will publish a report and provide recommendations to the management of the hospitals as well as to the workers in order to resolve their complaints.

 

NUHW represents nearly 800 caregivers at Santa Rosa Memorial and Petaluma Valley, as well as 400 St. Joseph healthcare workers at St. Joseph Eureka and Redwood Memorial in Humboldt County. NUHW.org. The North Bay Workers’ Rights Board is a project of North Bay Jobs with Justice. northbayjobswithjustice.org