Alta Bates Nurses Get City Support

By Judith Scherr
Thursday May 22, 2008 - 09:46:00 AM

Tuesday evening some two dozen Alta Bates-Summit Medical Center nurses rallied at Civic Center Park before walking across the street to the City Council meeting, where the council voted unanimously to support them in their contract fight with Sutter Health, Alta Bates-Summit’s parent corporation. 

The nurses have gone on brief strikes three times during the year they’ve been working without a contract.  

Susan Wittstock has been a Sutter nurse for 20 years. She works with premature newborns, who need continuous monitoring. That means she needs a replacement nurse when she goes on breaks, she told the Planet on Tuesday. 

“I work through breaks,” she said. In the neo-natal care unit, if a baby stops breathing, a nurse must be there to intervene, she said. 

The nurses are asking for help lifting patients. 

They are also fighting for a better pension plan. If she retired today, Wittstock said she would get $1,213 per month in retirement benefits. 

Warren J. Kirk, Alta Bates-Summit president and CEO wrote the mayor and council, saying, in part, “The medical center stands firmly committed to getting our nurses a fair and generous contract … Our goal always is to provide a contract for our nurses including wages and benefits that support nursing excellence.”  

The nurses’ demand for a “lift team” just transfers injuries from the nurses to others, while the hospital has a “get a lift” program, through which nurses get help lifting patients, he wrote. 

According to Kirk, there are “more RNs at the bedside than any time in the past, plus scheduled staff support for meal and break relief.”