Queen Of The Valley Hospital Workers Stage Picket Over Pandemic Staffing, Pay Issues

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NAPA (KPIX 5) – Workers at the Queen of the Valley Medical Center were out picketing Wednesday, claiming Napa County’s largest hospital is severely understaffed and that they’re underpaid.

But that’s not all. The informational picket was organized in hopes of letting the community know what it’s like inside this hospital.

Support staff at Queen of the Valley told KPIX 5 that negotiations with their employer have gone nowhere.

“We’re tired, all of us are tired,” said employee Tammy Wiggin.

Like many other healthcare facilities during the pandemic, Queen of the Valley is dealing with staffing shortages.

Workers hold an informational picket held outside Queen of the Valley Medical Center in Napa on January 19, 2022. (CBS)

Workers hold an informational picket held outside Queen of the Valley Medical Center in Napa on January 19, 2022. (CBS)

To ease the stress on California hospitals, Gov. Gavin Newsom recently allowed medical facilities to bring back their asymptomatic COVID-19 positive employees to the workplace.

Wiggins though alleges, “They had a positive lab person come in and work. And then everybody in the lab had to test. Another lady tested positive. They told her you don’t have symptoms you can come to work. Now her whole family is infected and she’s still working. She’s taking blood from cancer patients.”

While COVID-19 has led to staffing shortages, workers protesting said operator Providence Health & Services has a history of understaffing the hospital.

Karen McNair, a nurse, told KPIX 5, “They don’t really care about staffing, they don’t care about taking care of our families when they’re sick. They don’t even care about our patients because they’re not staffing us up so that we can take care of them properly.”

Providence said it is taking a multi-pronged approach to resolve staffing issues. In a statement to KPIX 5, they said in part, “At Providence, we want the same thing as our caregivers represented by unions: competitive pay that supports caregivers and their families and allows us to attract and retain the best talent.”

The operator said it is working with national staffing companies and offering signing bonuses to job candidates but employees say the salary is the main issues.

“We’ve had people come in here, MRI people turning down jobs because why would they work here when they can work at Kaiser and make $50 an hour more,” Wiggin explained.

Negotiations are expected to resume on Thursday.

Editor’s Note: Full Statement By Providence Health & Services.

We believe this picket held by the National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW)—a union representing service and technical workers—is in response to staffing challenges related to the pandemic, as well as wage negotiations.

It is important to know that informational pickets are not strikes, but they are a way for unions to inform and develop public support for their position. We respect the rights of our caregivers to be part of a union and to engage in this action.

Here are the important points:

• Staffing Challenges: 
As is the case at hospitals across the nation, staffing is, and has been, a challenge throughout the pandemic. We remain focused on retaining our current workforce as well as recruiting new caregivers for open positions. We are taking a multi-pronged approach to bolster our workforce and recruit caregivers, including:

• Working with national staffing companies and state government agencies to meet our needs. We are competing against other hospitals in the country and state for these finite resources.

• Accelerating recruitment to rapidly fill job openings and offering highly competitive sign-on bonuses to job candidates for hard-to-fill positions to reinforce the frontlines as quickly as possible, which will help alleviate the stress and burnout many caregivers are experiencing.

• Engaging Providence’s current workforce in the recruitment process; nearly every open role is now eligible for a generous referral bonus.

• Giving recognition bonuses to all caregivers throughout Providence in the fall and winter of 2021 in gratitude for their continued service and dedication.

Negotiations related to wages:

• We are committed to negotiating fair and market-competitive pay for all of our caregivers and we have a consistent compensation practice: pay rates are established based on comprehensive market information and are competitive when compared to those offered by other area employers for comparable jobs. We are currently meeting with the Union to discuss and bargain in good faith.

• At Providence, we want the same thing as our caregivers represented by unions: competitive pay that supports caregivers and their families and allows us to attract and retain the best talent.

We recognize the additional challenges our staff is facing during this latest COVID-19 surge. We deeply appreciate every one of caregivers and we thank them for continuing to pour their hearts into our mission of caring for our neighbors and all those in need.

The informational picketing will have no effect on the high-quality care we provide to our patients. We are maintaining our hospital services, so we do not compromise our ability to care for the patients who are counting on us.

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