Last week, 140 Teamsters 856 members at Eden Medical Center walked off the job as part of a one-day strike for patient care. The frontline Teamsters include respiratory care therapists, lab technicians, imaging technicians, and other health care professionals at the Castro Valley Hospital.
Eden Medical Center Teamsters have detailed staffing shortages, lack of leadership, and shortages of PPE all leading to patient care issues. They have also reported resorting to the use of 3D printers to make their own PPE not provided by the hospital.
Sutter Health has received $392 million in relief funding as part of the CARES Act and $999 million in advance payments under the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ Accelerated and Advance Payment Program.
“We’re burned out, the last ten months have been brutal and it’s getting even worse as we speak,” Maleah Best, a medical lab technician and shop steward told KTVU News. “We want more staff. We want the patients to get the care they need, and we don’t have the staff to do that.”
The Local 856 members have been in negotiations for 10 months after Sutter rejected the Teamsters’ offer for a contract extension to get through the pandemic, and instead insisted on full negotiations that included massive takeaways for the frontline employees, including cuts to health care benefits, retirement, wage freezes, and more.
“Our whole department has become much more anxious since COVID-19 hit — it’s made our job much more hazardous not only for us, but also for our families,” said Jennifer Lemke, a respiratory care therapist and shop steward.
Respiratory therapists are part of the three-person team that goes in with the doctors and nurses to intubate COVID-19 patients. They are often the last people patients see before they are put on ventilators.
“I’ve always felt so loyal to my employer,” said Lemke, who has worked at Eden for 33 years. “It’s devastating to be treated like this by Sutter — they’re not invested in us,” she said.
Teamsters 856 members are back at the table with Sutter this week and are hopeful to reach a fair contract agreement.