Alta Bates hospital nurses start 5-day strike in Oakland and Berkeley

Hundreds of nurses in Oakland and Berkeley were set to strike Monday morning because of what they call unsafe working conditions and high turnover rates. The strike will affect three of Sutter Health’s medical center campuses. 

"We feel like the hospital isn’t doing enough to ensure that there are appropriate measures in place to handle a situation that might escalate," said Ann Gaebler, a registered nurse and California Nurses Association negotiator.    

California Nurses Association and National Nurses United says they’ve been bargaining with the hospital since June of last year and represent 1,800 nurses at Sutter Health’s Alta Bates Summit Medical Center campuses. The union says Alta Bates campuses now have a 50% turnover rate, which is higher than the national average.  

"When we spend the time and energy to mentor them and precept them, we would like for them to stick around and be part of our team. It goes to the hospital providing the measures and the support to continue to mentor them and lift them up," Gaebler said.    

Newly trained nurses are finding safer working conditions and even higher pay at other hospitals, which ultimately can lead to staffing shortages at Alta Bates, according to Gaebler. 

Nurses say violence in the workplace is a huge deterrent and the hospital needs to discuss ways to keep the staff safe while they’re working with patients and families. 

"Even a call and rational person can become unhinged in a hospital environment because having someone in the hospital, a family member, a loved one or being a patient yourself, it’s a stressful experience just because someone is ill," Gaebler said.   

The strike is scheduled to begin at 7 am on Monday and will end on Saturday morning. Gaebler says the members agreed to a five-day strike and will only strike longer if necessary. CNA and NNU represent 100,000 members throughout California and more than 225,000 registered nurses in the country.  

"By moving forward with a costly and disruptive strike at Alta Bates Summit Medical Center, union leadership has made it clear they are willing to put politics above patients and the nurses they represent,"said a Sutter Health statement. "We stand by our commitment to patient safety, and Alta Bates Summit Medical Center remains open and fully operational despite the union’s actions."