A strike across the state by thousands of University of California healthcare workers in a labor dispute began its second and final day Wednesday. Despite calls for all union members to strike, many came to work anyway, a hospital official said.
The first day of the strike prompted the cancellation of hundreds of surgeries, the closure of laboratory stations and the diversion of emergency room patients, hospital officials said.
The hospitals prepared for the two-day strike by rescheduling patients’ elective surgeries and hiring temporary workers, but services still were affected after thousands of employees took to the picket line at UC medical centers in Los Angeles, Irvine, San Diego, San Francisco and Sacramento, where the UC Davis facility is located.
Many of the union members came to work despite the call for the two-day walkout, said Tom Rosenthal, UCLA Medical Center’s chief medical officer, told the Los Angeles Times. “Many people chose to put their patients first.”
Rosenthal hired about 400 replacement workers and redeployed about 150 workers to other areas of the hospital. Those on strike included respiratory therapists, pharmacy technicians and nursing assistants. The trauma center and emergency room were running as usual, but there were some minor delays around the hospital, Rosenthal said.
American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union leaders said they staged the strike because of concerns over staffing levels, pension changes and patient safety. UC officials defended their safety record and said they have offered a fair contract to union members. The two sides have been negotiating for nearly a year.
Beginning Tuesday at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, hundreds of workers wore matching green shirts and carried noisemakers and whistles. As they walked in a circle outside the hospital, they chanted, “All day, all night, safe staffing is our right!”
Ester Rivera drove from Bakersfield to UCLA so her 85-year-old mother could have a pelvic ultrasound, but she wasn’t able to have the scan. Other tests she had scheduled took nearly five hours to complete.
“It’s sort of frustrating,” she said. “Now we have to come back.”
Patient care at other hospitals also was affected by the strike.
UC Irvine Medical Center limited the number of transfers from community hospitals and diverted ambulances from its emergency room unless they were bringing in burn or trauma patients. About 75 surgeries were postponed. That hospital also saw a number of union members show up for work despite the walkout, spokesman John Murray said.
At UC San Francisco Medical Center, about 150 surgeries were canceled and an additional 100 patients didn’t receive scheduled chemotherapy, bone marrow transplants and other procedures. The medical center closed its outpatient radiology services and diverted ambulances from the ER.