Healthcare Staffing and Safety Woes Reach A Pivotal Point

by | Apr 21, 2022 | CNA NNOC, Healthcare, OSHA, SEIU, States, Strikes

The healthcare industry greeted 2022 with more of the same. That is to say, hospitals can’t seem to find any staffing-shortage relief despite pandemic numbers falling. Nurses and other frontline workers continue to leave the profession in large numbers, and many remaining staffers hope for the reinstatement of the OSHA Covid-19 rule (meant to put vaccination requirements, masking regulations, and other safety measures into place).

Until December 2021, the OSHA rule stayed in place via an emergency temporary standard (ETS), and on April 27, OSHA will hold a hearing with healthcare industry stakeholders to discuss whether to make the ETS a permanent measure, which could affect the flow of outgoing healthcare professionals. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit recently declared, however, that it harbors doubts about whether union pressure (by the Service Employees International Union and California Nurses Association, an affiliate of National Nurses United) can force OSHA or a court to take permanent action on the Covid-19 healthcare worker rule.

In the meantime, imminent strikes made the news for several healthcare systems:

  • In California, over 8,000 Sutter Health facility nurses and health care staffers went on a one-day strike at over a dozen facilities. The workers are represented by the CNA and the Caregivers and Healthcare Employees Union, and the reasons cited for the strike are inadequate staffing as well as safety concerns.
  • Also in California, over 4,500 Stanford and Packer nurses gave the greenlight to strike after 13 weeks of bargaining talks failed to reach a contract.
  • More trouble in California: Over 2,000 Cedars-Sinai Medical Center staffers schedule a May strike over pay rates, which the SEIU asserts should not be “less than $25 an hour” for any position in addition to increased benefits.
  • In Connecticut, hundreds of SEIU-represented nursing home workers and other staff workers will strike at five facilities beginning on April 22. The workers cited low pay and suggested that employers didn’t use Covid-related grants to address that issue.

At many facilities, contracted nurses (whose pay rates skyrocketed during the pandemic) will fill gaps during strikes, although clearly, that will only strain hospital resources even further. Look for the resulting complications to continue while unions and healthcare employers attempt to find solutions at the bargaining table.

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