Hospital workers at Alameda County's Fairmont Hospital rallied Wednesday to protest what they say are unsafe working conditions at the facility where workers say assaults can happen on a daily basis.
"I can honestly say I felt safer working at a jail than I do here," said Valery Myers, a nurse at the hospital and member of SEIU Local 1021, which held the rally that drew about 30 workers.
Myers, who had previously worked for a correctional department in Pennsylvania, was one of a handful of speakers at the rally who said they are hit, kicked and verbally abused by some patients on an almost daily basis.
The union represents about 200 full-time employees at the hospital, including nurses, dietitians and custodians. Union officials say their members are at risk nearly every day because of a changing patient mix at the 109-bed skilled nursing facility in San Leandro, which now includes patients released from John George Psychiatric Pavilion, a population their workers are not trained to handle.
Workers and Local 1021 leaders say talks with Alameda County Medical Center management about better training for workers, more staffing, or other ways to improve worker safety have produced no results.
"The lack of movement by ACMC administration to take adequate steps to mitigate the situation is unacceptable," said Sue Bergman, a board member of the local health care activist group Vote Health.
ACMC officials issued a response Wednesday afternoon to the allegations, saying the union had "made statements regarding the care of residents at Fairmont that are not true" and that the hospital's care staffing is 2.6 hours of care per patient per day higher than the state requirement. The statement also said the average age of residents is 50, and remains unchanged from the past.
"Administration and management at Fairmont work zealously every day to not only ensure that quality, compassionate patient care is delivered, and also to ensure that the morale of the staff remains high," the ACMC statement reads. "This is a daily challenge particularly in light of recent national and state financial cutbacks."
The rally also gave the union a chance to unveil what they say is a new whistle-blowers hot line for ACMC workers. The number, 877-687-1021, will be available for workers to call with any wrongdoing they see at the hospital so it can be documented by union officials.
Lillie Ray, who has worked at the hospital for six years, said she was attacked by a patient with an infectious disease. She said some workers are scared to complain about safety for fear they will lose their jobs. "Something needs to be done," Ray said. "People need to know what's going on."
Reach Chris Metinko at 510-763-5418 or firstname.lastname@example.org.