Nurses and Patients Report Sanitation and Care Standards in Decline at California Pacific Medical Center

SAN FRANCISCO -- At a press conference in front of City Hall today, registered nurses (RNs) and patients at California Pacific Medical Center (CPMC) reported that quality control and sanitation standards have been in decline since 800 CPMC caregivers were forced to strike on Sept. 13, 2005. Unskilled or poorly screened temporary workers replaced striking caregivers, who include certified nursing assistants, licensed vocational nurses, and obstetric aides.

RNs who are not members of SEIU United Healthcare Workers-West, filed a complaint with the Department of Health Services regarding inadequate sanitary conditions in CPMC patient areas. "Staff find blood residue in the labor and delivery surgery area and in the patient rooms after they have been cleaned by replacement workers. Supplies needed for basic nursing care on the units are constantly out of stock resulting in delays in patient care including dressing changes and bed linen changes," said Vicki

Bermudez, a regulator policy specialist for the California Nurses Association. "It is apparent to RNs that there has been inadequate screening, orientation, and competency validation of the replacement staff. Registered nurses have reported that replacement nursing assistants do not know to report abnormal vital signs or unusual patient behaviors."

At today's conference, RNs presented photographs documentingthe hazardous disposal of hospital waste, including needles and other materials. CPMC has routinely denied outstanding reports of declining sanitary and patient care standards that prevent the spread of hospital-acquired infections (HAIs). According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 90,000 Americans die each year from HAIs-- more than from auto accidents and homicides combined. Studies show that hospitals can reduce infection rates by up to 70 percent and avoid nearly $5 billion per year in costs related to treating the infections through proper sanitation practices currently in decline at CPMC.

"I am deeply concerned about the possible deterioration of patient care and sanitation standards at California Pacific Medical Center. Since caregivers were forced to strike on Sept. 13, CPMC RNs have reported unsanitary conditions that may put patients at risk of nosocomial infections and other dangerous health problems," reported Dr. Mitch Katz, director of the San Francisco Department of Public Health, in a written statement. "I applaud San Francisco's nurses and healthcare advocates for their efforts to protect the public health."

In addition to RNs, numerous CPMC patients have reported inadequate infection control practices.  "I delivered my third baby at CPMC at 5 a.m. on Oct. 20, 2005. When I first entered the recovery room, I noticed that the floor was not cleaned. The entire room looked like someone had just delivered a baby there and just left. The garbage was still full," said CPMC patient Venus Consul. "When I used the bathroom, I noticed the floor was also filthy and there were blood spots on the wall. The handle bar was so dirty that I refused to touch it. Therefore I had a hard time using the toilet. I dripped my own blood on the floor and asked for someone to clean it up as my family and friends were coming to visit. No one came to clean up. I had to lay towels on the floor so my three-year-old daughter could walk around the room. The nurse and I ended up wiping my own blood off the floor after I'd just delivered my baby."

After exhausting every measure to prevent a walkout, 800 CPMC caregivers were forced to strike on Sept. 13 for a federal mediator's compromise proposal for settlement that CPMC initially accepted, than rejected. The proposal features guidelines for safe staffing and a training and upgrade fund already accepted by every other major hospital system in Northern California, including Kaiser and Catholic Healthcare West.

Source: SEIU United Healthcare Workers-West

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