SAN BERNARDINO - Chanting "some cuts don't heal" and "this is about patient care," about 100 nurses and other employees of St. Bernardine Medical Center and Community Hospital of San Bernardino picketed Thursday morning over what they said will be staffing and procedural changes that take effect Sunday night.

The protest was held in front of St. Bernardine Medical Center. Many of the protesters were members of the California Nurses Association-National Nurses United.

Layoffs were not on the list of concerns voiced by the group.

Rather, it was a decision to shift all nighttime nurse's aides to the day shift, leaving registered nurses at night to pick up the aides' duties as well as their own.

Another concern was a new procedure that would require RNs from the floor to leave their post and take patients from the emergency room, said Carol Koelle, a charge nurse on a floor with heart patients.

"This is a 30-minute trip and it means that other RNs will need to cover additional patients and their own," Koelle said.

In a statement Thursday, hospital officials said, "We are disappointed by the California Nurses Association decision to conduct informational picketing at St. Bernardine Medical Center and regret any inconvenience this might cause our patients, physicians and staff.

"Our hospital places the care and safety of our patients first at all times. St. Bernardine Medical Center, like all Dignity Health hospitals, represents a vital source of care in our communities. We will continue to provide excellent care our patients expect and the hospital will remain open with all services available to meet the needs of the communities we serve.

"St. Bernardine Medical Center and our parent company, Dignity Health, value our employees and the contributions they make to our patients and community.

"We remain eager and willing to resolve contract issues in a respectful and professional manner.

"St. Bernardine and Community Hospital meet all mandated staffing levels, as required by the state of California," said Kimberly VandenBosch, director of marketing, communications and political advocacy.

Leslie Curtis, a California Nursing Association labor representative for the two hospitals, said "we want to have the time to be able to take care of our patients. We want to be able see if there is something wrong."

In December, a spokesman for the two hospitals said the long economic recession and the subsequent increase in uninsured patients, coupled with cuts to government insurance programs and declining patient counts, were forcing some difficult staffing decisions.

Several nurse's aides said Thursday morning that they were concerned that their hours would be cut with so many working daytime shifts.

"I think management has the mistaken idea that all patients do at night is sleep," said Patricia Woods, a nursing aide at Community Hospital.

Both St. Bernardine and Community Hospital are owned by San Francisco-based Dignity Health.


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