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Don't Call Me A Hero

Tenet Healthcare workers are being left behind

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Our campaign is about fighting for caregivers and patients.

We blew the whistle on Tenet when it put people at risk during the pandemic. Now we’re fighting for safe staffing, fair pay and affordable healthcare for our families.

Local clergy demonstrate support for workers at Tenet Hospitals

Published Sunday, April 18, 2021 #

 

NUHW members at Tenet Healthcare hospitals in Southern California received strong support from local clergy for the launch of their “Don’t Call Me a Hero” campaign.

The campaign is focused on making Tenet, a Fortune 500 company, honor the sacrifices and dedication of their workers over the past year with contracts that provide livable wages, affordable health care, and safe working environments with sufficient staffing and PPE.

Despite having cash reserves exceeding $$ billion, Tenet subcontracts out cleaning and food services at its hospitals in Fountain Valley, Lakewood and Los Alamitos. These subcontracted workers make far less than their counterparts who work directly at Tenet hospitals. Many of them could not even afford healthcare even as they cleaned COVID-19 units and delivered food to COVID-19 patients during the pandemic.

Members of Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice, a Southern California social justice organization, held a recent Zoom community Townhall to listen to workers and learn about how they can help their campaign.

The meeting came on the heels of a letter signed by 40 CLUE clergy and lay leaders wrote to the CEOs of all three Tenet Hospitals demanding justice for the workers whose jobs are subcontracted out to the firm Compass.

We believe you need to do more than just call our hospital workers heroes. We ask that you bring the housekeeping and dietary worker wages up to $18.20 to match that of Tenet workers as well as their more affordable health insurance benefits. We ask that you end the subcontracting and bring the Compass members in-house. No frontline worker should ever be treated second class.

CLUE clergy leaders have also been participating in bargaining sessions to demonstrate the breadth of community support for Tenet workers. Meanwhile, Tenet workers have taken to social media telling community members about their struggle to win a contract that protects their health and honors their commitment during the pandemic.

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“There’s Just Not Enough Staff”

Published Tuesday, March 23, 2021 #

Tenet Healthcare’s largest hospital in Orange County, California wasn’t ready for COVID-19, and was even less prepared for the surge that tore through Southern California in December and January.

On this episode of Capital & Main’s Pandemic Nation podcast, Christina Rodriguez, a respiratory therapist, detailed the struggle caregivers faced as the hospital filled with COVID-19 patients.

“We can’t even keep up with what’s happening,” Rodriguez said during the height of the surge. “We need 20 therapists per shift. We’re lucky if we have — on a good day — 15. There’s just not enough staff.”

Tenet CEO is big winner in latest acquisition

Published Thursday, February 25, 2021 #

In 2018, Tenet CEO Ronald Rittenmeyer received $14.9 million in total compensation.

This year — amid a pandemic and economic collapse — he stands to make even more.

When Tenet announced this month it would pay $1.1 billion for 45 surgery centers, the company’s stock soared past $40 per share. That triggered a payout in Rittenmeyer’s contract worth $9.6 million.

Tenet has $1.1 billion available to buy surgery centers. Yet, Tenet hospitals in Southern California have refused to spend the money necessary to provide safe staffing or bring dietary workers and housekeepers in-house so they can all afford health insurance and receive a living wage.

If Tenet can afford to let its CEO pocket nearly $10 million in a single day, it can afford to boost staffing and treat all the workers at its hospitals with dignity.

Tenet profits while workers struggle

Published Thursday, February 25, 2021 #

A global pandemic hasn’t hurt Tenet Healthcare’s bottom line. In releasing its financial results for 2020, the healthcare conglomerate reported a $399 million net profit in 2020.

If Tenet is so profitable, it makes you wonder why it accepted more than $850 million in direct federal stimulus payments along with $1.5 billion in Medicare Advance payments.

Tenet has understaffed its hospitals during the worst of the pandemic, yet its immediate plan for the surplus is to pay off nearly a half-billion in corporate debt.

In talking to inventors, Tenet CEO Ronald Rittenmeyer said, “Our resilience as an organization was tested, and we outperformed, delivered on our commitments and continued building a framework for our future growth and success.”

What Tenet hasn’t done is staff its hospitals safely, pay all of its workers living wages or follow COVID-19 protocols. If Tenet can make a huge profit during a pandemic, it certainly has enough money to make sure all of its workers are treated fairly and have health insurance for themselves and their families.

NUHW members blow the whistle on Fountain Valley Regional Hospital

Published Monday, September 28, 2020 #

In response to a complaint filed by NUHW, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) investigated Tenet Healthcare’s Fountain Valley Regional Hospital and released a 33-page report that validates the concerns expressed by workers that “systemic” infection control violations at the hospital have placed both caregivers and patients at increased risk for contracting COVID-19.

“We might be carriers, but we don’t know if we have it or not because we’re not tested,” Mila Pham, a secretary on Fountain Valley’s COVID-19 unit, told the Los Angeles Times. “We get tested for [tuberculosis] every year — why not COVID-19?” The Voice of OC also reported on the state investigation.

The “Focused Infection Control Survey” was jointly issued with the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

The government investigators, who interviewed workers and managers, reviewed records and visited the hospital, concluded that Fountain Valley “failed to ensure an effective, active hospital-wide infection control program for the prevention, control and investigation of infections and communicable diseases, including COVID-19.”

The report found that:

  • A patient suspected of having COVID-19 was placed on the Oncology unit, which housed immunocompromised patients undergoing chemotherapy.
  • A COVID-19 positive patient was placed in the OB/GYN unit where pregnant women receive care.
  • A COVID-19 positive adult patient was placed on the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit, where multiple COVID-19 negative children were receiving care.
  • Fountain Valley “failed to provide the dedicated nursing staff to the COVID-19 positive patients that required isolation for a highly infectious disease. This failure had the potential to spread this infectious disease to other patients and staff.”
  • When asked by investigators about caregivers treating both COVID-positive and non-COVID patients on the same shift, the hospital’s Chief Nursing Officer told investigators that “having the dedicated staffing for COVID-19 and PUIs [persons under investigation for having COVID-19] were not always possible due to staffing shortages and the CDC’s guidelines were only suggestions.”

According to the report, “The cumulative effects of these systemic problems resulted in the hospital’s inability to provide an effective hospital wide infection control program and increased the risk of cross contamination and the spread of infection in the facility.”

In response to Fountain Valley’s violations of both state and federal standards, the California Department of Public Health ordered the hospital to prepare and implement a “Plan of Correction.” The agency will continue to monitor the hospital, likely via follow-up inspections, to ensure its compliance with the plan.

While the hospital has made some improvements in response to the investigation, it still refuses to test all newly admitted patients for COVID-19 and refuses to regularly test all caregivers.

Fountain Valley workers force Tenet to implement COVID-19 safeguards

Published Thursday, August 27, 2020 #

At the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Tenet Healthcare’s Fountain Valley Regional Hospital was not doing nearly enough to protect the health of its workers and patients. The hospital lacked sufficient PPE, placed COVID-19 patients alongside non-COVID patients and refused to test both workers and all patients upon admission.

Tenet is a Fortune 500 company with more than $2 billion in cash reserves. Workers demanded more from Tenet and through their actions, including two public protests, they have forced the hospital to make concessions.

In advance of their first protest last month over the hospital’s substandard safety procedures, workers filed a complaint with the California Department of Public Health. The agency found so many issues that they received approval from the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to launch a much broader survey of the entire hospital. This larger survey included a seven-day visit by four agency surveyors and a doctor.

Although the findings have not been released, the hospital has already begun to isolate COVID-19 patients, several of whom had been previously placed in the same unit as cancer patients.

Now, workers are pushing for the hospital to test all newly admitted patients and provide them with regular COVID-19 testing. Their second protest, held on Aug. 6,  was covered by the Los Angeles Times, Orange County Register and Becker’s Hospital Review.

Our members were also joined by about 20 nurses, including Jennifer Carter, who told the Los Angeles Times: “There’s a lot of fear — of getting COVID-19, bringing it home to family, giving it to patients. Every patient who comes into the emergency room should be tested. If they leave our ER, but they’re asymptomatic, they’re going to go out and spread it.”

Following the second protest, NBC News did a national story about Fountain Valley, quoting Mailinh Nguyen, a nursing assistant, who was denied a COVID-19 test even after she worked two shifts caring for a patient who later tested positive for the Coronavirus.