Memorial Hospital Caregivers Strike, Citing Unsafe Conditions, Benefit Cuts

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In the midst of surging coronavirus cases across Sonoma County, more than 700 caregivers at Santa Rosa’s Memorial hospital launched a week-long strike on Monday, charging hospital operator Providence St. Joseph Health with ignoring their demands for safe working conditions and affordable healthcare.

Medical technicians, respiratory therapists and nursing assistants represented by the National Union of Healthcare Workers are among caregivers who have been working without a contract for the past year.  They say despite repeated requests for N95 masks, some caregivers and hospital workers continue to be denied safe PPE gear.

In addition, they charge that while the hospital operator has been making huge profits in Santa Rosa, its current contract offer to caregivers would more than double the annual healthcare premiums for the typical worker while reducing sick leave.

A group of Sonoma County lawmakers recently reached out to Providence St. Joseph Health leadership asking them to meet the caregivers’ contract requests, and several appeared at a morning rally to lend their support to the striking workers.

For its part, Providence St. Joseph Health says its offer of a 12 percent wage increase spread over three years is a fair one, and says a similar package has been accepted by workers at other Northern California hospitals.

Santa Rosa Memorial is a key regional trauma center, and workers there and at several other county hospitals have been treating an increasing number of COVID-19 patients as cases have soared in the past several weeks.

Almost half of all confirmed coronavirus cases in Sonoma County have been reported in the past several weeks, prompting the state to order a rollback of business reopening in the region.

According to state figures, as of Monday 50 confirmed or suspected COVID-19 patients were being hospitalized locally.  That number has been rising steadily since June.

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