Long Beach healthcare workers file strike notice after hospital fails to protect patients, employees, public

[June 14, 2013] LONG BEACH, CA – Licensed vocational nurses, rehabilitation counselors and other healthcare workers eager to protect patients at a Long Beach mental health facility and preserve public safety in surrounding neighborhoods filed a strike notice today against Telecare La Casa Mental Health Rehabilitation Center. Unless the company ends its unfair labor practices, members of SEIU – United Healthcare Workers West (SEIU-UHW) will strike as soon as June 26.

The hospital has drawn criticism for its lax safety measures that contribute to patients escaping regularly, employees being hospitalized after violent altercations with patients, and patients sexually assaulting one another. During a three-year period ending March 2013, the Long Beach Police Department responded to more than 230 calls at the facility.

“The last thing we want to do is strike, but it appears that’s the only option we have left to get the company to bargain in good faith and protect the safety of patients, employees, and the public,” said Tony Gann, a Mental Health Worker at La Casa. “Patients are here to get well, and they should not fear becoming the victim of a sexual assault. Employees are here to deliver care, and they should not fear being kicked, punched, or slammed into the ground. And the public should not have to worry about people with mental illness escaping from the facility and into their neighborhoods.”

La Casa employees, whose starting wage is less than $9, have repeatedly seen their requests for improved safety measures – including an onsite security guard and a Plexiglas barrier around the nursing station – denied by management. In April 2013, one worker ended up in the emergency room after being knocked unconscious by a patient.

Under an agreement between the County of Los Angeles and La Casa, the county pays the facility nearly $450 per patient for every day of care, an amount totaling $18.3 million in 2012, and more than $54 million since 2010. In order to receive county funding, La Casa must take patients who previously stayed at Twin Towers Correctional Facility or Metropolitan State Hospital.

La Casa is owned by Telecare, an Alameda-based private company which has more than 2,200 employees in six states, and reported net patient revenue of $186 million in 2011.

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