Nurses call for safer staffing levels, strong contract at St. Rose Hospital in Hayward

Nurses hold an informational picket to raise awareness about unsafe staffing levels at St. Rose Hospital in Hayward on Friday, Feb. 3. (Sonia Waraich — East Bay Echo)

HAYWARD, Calif. — Harneet Singh was one of seven registered nurses hired to work in the Emergency Department at St. Rose Hospital in Hayward about 15 months ago, but now he’s the only one of the seven who still works there.

“The turnover rate is extremely high,” Singh said, “and that creates less than ideal working conditions and less than ideal safety conditions for patients.”

Singh was one of several dozen St. Rose nurses, members of the California Nurses Association, holding an informational picket outside of the nonprofit hospital on Friday morning. They were raising awareness about chronic short staffing, high turnover, heavy patient workloads and the harm being done to patient care. The nurses have been in contract negotiations with the hospital since July 2021.

The hospital responded in a statement that it “has been negotiating in good faith with the California Nurses Association (CNA) for more than 18 months over the terms of a successor collective bargaining agreement for St. Rose’s registered nurses” and that “the parties have made substantial progress in negotiations towards finalizing this agreement.”

“St. Rose has been and is ready to complete these negotiations,” the statement reads. “St. Rose has asked for and has been waiting for several weeks for dates from CNA on which they are ready to meet to complete these negotiations.”

However, Singh said the opposite, that “the administration is slow to respond, slow to negotiate and slow to act.”

“It is up to the administration to prioritize patient care over their bottom line,” Singh said. “We need a strong nursing contract in order to attract and retain good nurses at St. Rose Hospital and serve the Hayward community.”

The state Legislature established minimum nurse-to-patient ratios with the passage of Assembly Bill 394 in 1999, but those standards were waived when the COVID-19 state of emergency was declared. The path to reinstating the safety standards has been rocky. While Gov. Gavin Newsom announced the COVID-19 state of emergency will end at the end of this month, the state Department of Public Health is issuing program flexibility waivers that will allow hospitals to continue operating outside of established nurse-to-patient ratios.

Research done a decade ago showed the safety standards adopted by the state two decades ago led to fewer patient deaths and increased nurse retention.

St. Rose, like other hospitals across the country, has instead resorted to hiring travel nurses, who are hired on a temporary basis to cover staffing shortages. That doesn’t resolve all the issues the nurses are facing, Singh said.

“You need experienced nurses that know the unit, know the patients, know the community that they work with to provide the best patient care,” Singh said, “and that is what we are asking for by asking for a strong contract.”

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