Over 16,000 registered nurses at 39 hospitals in California and Nevada are planning a one-day strike on Friday, October 30th. The nurses, who are represented by the California Nurses Association, say the strike is intended to draw attention to poor safety standards that put them at risk of catching H1N1, more commonly known as “swine flu.” A 51-year-old nurse at Mercy San Juan Medical Center in Sacramento, died on July 17, of H1N1 complications.
Nurses are calling for hospitals to adopt the full CDC guidelines for the care of patients with H1N1 including patient isolation and the use of N95 respirators whenever possible. Hospital officials cite a shortage of N95 masks. Recent research by the Society of Healthcare Epidemiology has suggested that standard surgical masks may be as effective as N95 respirators at preventing the spread of H1N1.
Nurses and hospital officials are currently locked in a contract dispute. In addition to demanding increased H1N1 protection, nurses are fighting against the hospitals’ proposed wage freezes and the move to shift healthcare expenses to employees. They also ask for an end to “floating” and for RN monitors to be installed in all hospitals to ensure that RN-to-patient staff levels follow California state law.