For Immediate Release:
September 17, 2021
OAKLAND, Calif. – Healthcare workers representing SEIU-UHW’s 100,000 members sent an urgent message to California Health and Human Services Secretary Mark Ghaly, imploring the agency to keep strong patient care protections and focus on retaining the current healthcare workforce in light of the dire staffing situation hospitals are facing.
The move came in response to a request from the California Hospital Association (CHA) asking the state to pay for travel staff and to suspend California Department of Public Health (CDPH) investigations and enforcement through the end of the year.
“Health care workers are facing our most difficult working conditions in generations with the severe impacts from stress, grief, and short staffing… [t]here is a desperate workforce crisis in our hospitals,” says SEIU-UHW President Dave Regan in the letter. “Instead of using state resources to pay for travel staff as CHA is requesting, we would propose that the state act to retain California’s current healthcare workforce and encourage healthcare workers back to our hospitals by providing retention bonuses to healthcare workers who are doing their best to hold the line.”
SEIU-UHW healthcare workers say the hospital industry is asking for the state to pay for their travel staffing because of the industry’s failure to plan for how to retain workers. In their request to the state for funding, the California Hospital Association stated that, “travel staff have in many cases been untested, unprepared, or unwilling to do the work required.” SEIU-UHW members say it makes little sense for the state to invest in travel staff instead of focusing on retaining the current qualified workforce to ensure that quality of care is not compromised.
The letter on behalf of SEIU-UHW healthcare workers also urged the state to keep strong patient care protections by rejecting the proposal by CHA to suspend CDPH investigations and enforcement stating, “[t]his would give hospitals a blank check to continue unsafe practices that jeopardize patients and workers. Too many hospitals have been inconsistent in applying CDPH visitation guidelines, are undermining basic levels of safe staffing, and are spotty in their enforcement of safety standards. Patients and workers are at greater risk than ever before and they deserve the protection of aggressive CDPH enforcement.”
The letter closes saying, “the answer is to recognize, support, and retain the caregivers who have been working through the pandemic, not to bail out hospital executives, prop up staffing agencies, and jeopardize patient safety by foregoing inspections.”
SEIU-UHW members include frontline workers such as respiratory care practitioners, emergency room technicians, environmental services and nursing staff who live and work throughout California from the Bay Area to Sacramento and Los Angeles to the Central Valley.
MEDIA CONTACT: Renée Saldaña, firstname.lastname@example.org
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SEIU-United Healthcare Workers West (SEIU-UHW) is a healthcare justice union of more than 100,000 healthcare workers, patients, and healthcare activists united to ensure affordable, accessible, high-quality care for all Californians, provided by valued and respected healthcare workers.