SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Thousands of nurses at nine San Francisco Bay area hospitals walked off the job on the morning of Christmas Eve — a day a hospital spokeswoman described as a time when "only the sickest of the sick are in the hospital."
Registered nurses and technicians at seven hospitals operated by Sutter Health and at two San Jose hospitals affiliated with the Hospital Corporation of America went on a one-day strike at 7 a.m. Monday, said hospital officials and representatives with the California Nurses Association.
The strike — the eighth by the union since September 2011 — comes as both sides remain at odds in a lingering dispute over health benefits, staffing levels and other issues.
As in the previous strikes, both sides traded barbs, disagreeing over the need for a strike, the number of nurses who refused to show up for work and the quality of care the replacement nurses would provide.
Hospital officials also criticized the union for calling the strike on Christmas Eve.
"We are deeply disappointed the union is taking nurses away from the bedside, particularly during the holiday season, when only are sickest patients are with us," said Carolyn Kemp, a spokeswoman for Alta Bates Summit Medical Center, one of the Sutter facilities hit by the strike.
Union spokeswoman Joanne Jung said the union called the strike because of the hospital's demands to eliminate health benefits for nurses who work fewer than 30 hours a week, disagreements over sick pay and other issues.
"They may be critical of us, but no nurse wants to strike," Jung said. "Management has given us no alternative."