As Huntington Hospital’s Superbug Drama Unfolds, Labor Union Trouble Flares Up

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4:54 am | August 24, 2015

Registered nurses gathered near Huntington Memorial Hospital at noon Monday to speak out about recent developments in the unionization move initiated months ago but defeated by a vote in April, although those results are under review by National Labor Relations Board.

The nurses also discussed the reported recent firing of RN Allysha Almada, who testified before a community panel last month about the nurses’ efforts to organize collectively. Almada’s colleagues say it was her outspoken advocacy that led to her firing.

Monday’s rally was organized with the help of the California Nurses Association/National Nurses United (CNA/NNU) which on Friday announced that it had filed an unfair labor charge against the hospital’s management.

Huntington Memorial nurses began organizing in May 2014 to affiliate with CAN/NNU after complaining that a number of their efforts to engage management on patient care issues were rebuffed.

In April this year, the NLRB supervised a secret ballot vote to determine whether or not the nurses at Huntington Memorial Hospital want representation from CAN/NNU. Four hundred forty five voted for representation, 539 against it, but 175 ballots were challenged.

With such a number of challenged ballots, the NLRB will have to resolve them before making a definite determination of the result.
In a press statement in April, the HMH management said, “In the meantime, with the vote behind us, Huntington Hospital will move forward. We will continue to keep our focus on our commitment to providing safe, quality care to our patients and their families.”

CNA/NNU ultimately called on federal officials to set aside the election, citing more than 40 violations of federal workplace protections that made a “free and fair election impossible.”

Almada testified on July 26th, before community panel about nurses’ efforts to organize as a union and to address patient care issues at HMH. She was fired shortly thereafter.

“I put my whole soul into caring for my patients, and management knows this,” says Almada, who was fired after nearly five years in the Huntington ICU. “I’ve worked as a nurse educator, sat on a committee of nurse leaders who bring patient care concerns to management; I have special training in trauma and open heart. I care deeply about providing the best possible care, and that’s exactly why I spoke up at the panel—to help ensure that RNs are supported in providing top-quality, safe care. The next thing I knew, I was being fired. This is intimidation – and it’s wrong.”

CAN/NNU said Almada’s fellow ICU nurse Vicki Lin has also been fired. The management at Huntington has not issued any statement about the firings.

“The firing of Allysha and Vicki is not a coincidence, it’s a pattern of intimidation,” says Maria Aguirre, RN. “It’s unconscionable to treat nurses this way — especially right now while our hospital is in the middle of a care crisis with the pseudomonas bacteria outbreak.”

Huntington Memorial alerted health authorities Wednesday to a potential link between three Huntington patients who were found to have the pseudomonas bacteria “superbug,” and Olympus Corp. duodenoscopes that were used to treat the patients.

The bacteria — which can be deadly — can become trapped inside the reusable devices, potentially putting future patients at risk.

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