Alameda nurses picket to reverse 'dangerous' cuts to patient care

Nurses in Alameda on Monday picketed outside a hospital to protest cuts being made to surgical services that they say could impact health care for lower income and marginalized Alameda residents.  

The nurses rallied at Alameda Hospital on Clinton Avenue after public health care system Alameda Health System announced the decision to cut elective surgery at Alameda Hospital and relocate these services to Wilma Chan Highland Hospital Campus in Oakland and San Leandro Hospital. 

The decision was met with broad disapproval by registered nurses at Alameda Hospital, represented by the California Nurses Association union. Many of the nurses believe that these cuts to surgical services will take away vital medical care from residents in Alameda. Therefore, they hope to target county supervisors and hospital leaders to overturn this decision. 

According to CNA, Alameda Health System's decision could cause residents of Alameda to lose access to surgical services as early as July 1. 

"Where are all the poor, marginalized patients going to go?" said registered nurse Anna Dorion. "If you say you need any surgery, or you need to go to the ER, where are you going to go? Are you going to go to Highland Hospital, where there's extreme wait times of almost two business days? Or are you going to go to San Leandro, especially if you're here, on the (Alameda) island?" 

According to AHS, the hospital's relocation of elective surgery is because of a seismic upgrade required by law to keep Alameda Hospital operational. On May 13, AHS and the city of Alameda Health Care District entered an agreement to secure $55 million in financing to ensure the upgrade of the facility and meet the seismic mandate.

In response to the picket, AHS released a statement that they are "unequivocally committed to keeping Alameda Hospital open to continue providing critical health care services to all Alameda residents, regardless of their ability to pay. The relocation of elective surgery is part of a plan to ensure the long-term sustainability of Alameda Hospital." 

A majority of the patients served by Alameda Hospital are on Medi-Cal or are uninsured, according to AHS. 

"It's profit over patients," said Dorion. "That is the Alameda Health System at this point." 

"If they close the surgical services here at Alameda Hospital, what's not to say that they'll close the emergency services. If they close the emergency services, what's not to say that they'll close the intensive care unit," said Dorion. "So, what's going to happen? You no longer have a county hospital." 

In the meantime, nurses at Alameda Hospital are directing their focus toward Alameda County's Board of Supervisors, who will meet on June 18. The board holds oversight over AHS and nurses at Alameda Hospital plan to use this meeting to call for the reversal of AHS' decision.