Santa Cruz County

Watsonville Community Hospital nurses begin striking Thursday

Nurses say staffing shortages are putting patients at risk

WATSONVILLE, Calif. - Registered nurses at Watsonville Community Hospital began a three-day strike Thursday morning to protest alleged ongoing staffing and care issues.

The nurses plan to hold a rally Thursday afternoon in front of the hospital, in which they will speak out against what they say are demands by hospital executives for sharp reductions in health coverage, and the hospital's refusal to address concerns about patient care conditions.

Nurses also were on strike Thursday at Queen of the Valley Medical center in Napa and Sutter Tracy Community Hospital. The California Nurses Association/National Nurses United represents the registered nurses at all three hospitals. 

Watsonville's striking RNs say relations with local hospital officials have been aggravated by a hard line pushed by corporate executives at Tennessee-based Community Health Systems - which now operates the former locally-owned and operated hospital in Watsonville.

"We raise serious concerns about safe staffing and clinical practices but we receive no serious response. We are talking about patients' lives," said Roseann Farris, a critical care RN at Watsonville. "We need to take this action in order for the hospital to take our concerns seriously."

CHS is the largest for-profit hospital chain in the U.S. with 206 hospitals in 29 states, and they've been sanctioned in the past for labor violations around the country.

The striking nurses say they've ensured there will be a patient protection task force at Sutter Tracy to assist in the event of a genuine patient care emergency inside the hospital.

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