Some 18,000 nurses in Northern California are planning a two-day strike starting Nov. 11, partly over equipment and training standards for the Ebola virus.
The walkout would affect 21 hospitals and 65 clinics owned by Kaiser Permanente, based in Oakland, California, said Charles Idelson, a spokesman for National Nurses United. The union’s contract with nonprofit Kaiser expired in August and was extended until October, he said.
The union said in a Nov. 6 statement that Kaiser “continued to stonewall on dozens of proposals to improve patient care standards, as well as refusing to address the concern of Kaiser RNs about Ebola safety protocols and protective equipment, refusing to even answer questions by the RNs.”
Kaiser hospitals have contingency plans in place and will operate with normal business hours and services, while elective procedures and non-urgent appointments will be rescheduled, John Nelson, a spokesman, said today in an e-mailed statement.
He disputed the idea that health workers aren’t being trained to deal with Ebola.
“We are training our staff on how to use the right protective gear, to make sure they know how to use it,” Nelson said in the statement. “We have repeatedly asked union leadership to work with us on our Ebola strategy. They have refused. Instead, they continue to hold press conferences claiming hospitals are unprepared for Ebola.”
The dispute comes after two nurses in Dallas were infected last month while caring for Thomas Eric Duncan, the first man to die of the virus in the U.S. Both have since been declared free of the virus. After the nurses became infected, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released updated guidelines for health workers, such as details about the coverings they should wear while treating Ebola patients.
Other strikes are planned for next week: 800 nurses at two non-Kaiser Northern California hospitals on Nov. 11 and another affecting 400 nurses in Washington the next day, Idelson of the nurses union said.
The union also plans to hold a “day of actions” on Nov. 12 in at least 16 U.S. states and Washington, to highlight better training and protection equipment to aid in the caring of patients with the Ebola virus.