Thousands of registered nurse and health care worker members of National Nurses United (NNU), the country’s largest union and professional association of RNs, is speaking out on behalf of patients nationwide.
Hundreds of socially distanced events in more than 19 states and the District of Columbia were planned for Wednesday, Jan. 27 to demand that their hospital employers put patients first above profit motives in how patient care is delivered. In this area, nurses at Sutter-Tracy Community Hospital was due to take part.
According to a statement by the NNU, the hospital industry’s response to COVID has demonstrated to nurses and patients that they may attempt to implement their long-desired goal of restructuring the industry to prioritize profits – a direction that nurses and health care workers warn is bad for patient and worker safety. The actions on Jan. 27 are a kickoff to a campaign that puts the industry on notice that such moves will be fought by the people who provide care to patients.
In addition, the events will launch a year of major contract negotiations that include some of the most profitable and mammoth corporate hospital chains in the United States, including HCA Healthcare, Sutter Health, and Dignity Health, which is owned by CommonSpirit. Together, the contract negotiations cover nearly 45,000 registered nurses and respiratory therapists, aides, technicians, and other health care workers across the country.
A prime focus of the talks will be improving health and safety and infectious diseases provisions in their contracts that nurses and health care workers say are necessary to protect themselves, their patients, and their communities.
So far, NNU has documented nearly 3,000 health care worker deaths in the United States due to COVID-19; that number includes more than 310 RN deaths. NNU noted these numbers are a drastic undercount of true health care worker mortality figures.
Another important issue that nurses will address during negotiations is the racial disparities in health care outcomes they observe daily.
“It has been known for a long time that there are racial differences in health care, but this pandemic has really exposed them for all to see,” said Zenei Triunfo-Cortez, RN and an NNU and California Nurses Association/National Nurses Organizing Committee president. “We will be leading an effort to insist the health care industry stop this terrible scourge of systemic racism in the delivery of health care.”
National Nurses United is the country’s largest and fastest-growing union and professional association of registered nurses and health care workers, with more than 170,000 members nationwide.